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How Family History Can Impact Kidney Health


SPONSORED CONTENT -- (StatePoint) This article is sponsored by Otsuka America Pharmaceutical Inc.

While lifestyle factors such as physical activity and dietary habits play an integral role in a person’s overall health, family history is a critical component as well. Genetic disorders, or inherited conditions, are caused by an abnormality or mutation that’s passed down in the genes. While it does not always mean that a parent will pass a genetic condition to their children, it is important to know the potential to inherit a health issue in order to prepare to manage the condition accordingly.  

One genetic condition is Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease (ADPKD), a progressive kidney disease that leads to cyst formation and kidney growth that may eventually result in kidney failure and require either dialysis or kidney transplant. ADPKD is the most common inherited renal disease/kidney disorder and, according to data, affects as many as 140,000 Americans.

While ADPKD is considered a rare disease and is relatively unknown to most people, it is unfortunately all too common for families impacted by the condition. In fact, children of a parent with ADPKD have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the disease. Patients may remain asymptomatic for years while the disease progresses, which is why is it imperative to diagnose and monitor kidney size in people who have a genetic connection. It's also important for people to know the symptoms and risk factors associated with ADPKD progression so they can maintain a healthy lifestyle and talk to their doctor about routine monitoring.

The Importance of Early Detection

Like many other genetic conditions, early detection of ADPKD can be vital to a person’s disease management. Typically, ADPKD is diagnosed by an ultrasound of the kidneys; however, a computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the kidneys may also be conducted. While less common, genetic testing for ADPKD is also available. As a result of advancements in medicine and imaging, for those diagnosed with ADPKD, physicians may be able to identify ADPKD patients who are at risk for disease progression as well as estimate how likely they are to progress based on the size of their kidneys. In fact, research shows that even just one kidney scan can assess the rate of progression and predict the future decline of kidney function.

Having an open dialogue with family members is also an important factor. For instance, those living with ADPKD can share their own diagnosis story, including any symptoms they may have experienced as well as effective lifestyle changes and management strategies. This open communication not only helps provide a close-knit support system for those living with ADPKD, but also allows for a larger network of information sharing that may be helpful for people as they work to manage their condition. Being educated on family medical history also allows patients to offer a more complete family history to their doctor and alert them about conditions to monitor for during regular checkups. Additionally, it can also help empower patients to be proactive when it comes to seeing a specialist.

Be an Informed Patient

Regardless of what conditions may run in a person’s family, it’s always important to be an empowered patient. Patients should be sure to utilize educational resources to have informed conversations with healthcare providers. For instance, those with ADPKD can visit which provides information for understanding this genetic disease and learning more about developing an effective management strategy, such as maintaining a balanced diet, staying physically active, as deemed appropriate by their care team, getting enough sleep, keeping all scheduled checkups and routine testing, and aiming to maintain a healthy weight.

It is critical for patients living with ADPKD to remain consistent with their management strategies– and sharing family health history can play a role in this. The earlier a patient receives a diagnosis, the sooner they will be able to take the necessary steps to manage this inherited condition.

Photo Credit: (c) PIKSEL / iStock via Getty Images Plus

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