Background: Pain is a common problem in patients with polycystic kidney disease (PKD), but patterns have not been characterized as to frequency and severity. Physicians should be aware of pain problems so an approach to chronic pain management can be pursued.
Methods: One hundred seventy-one completed questionnaires out of 300 distributed to PKD patients whose renal function ranged from normal to end-stage renal disease (ESRD) were analyzed. Age at diagnosis of PKD was documented, and patients noted how the diagnosis was made. Location, severity, and frequency of pain were characterized. The Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) was used to measure pain intensity.
Results: There were 94 females and 77 male respondents, with a mean age of 47.4 years. Initial diagnosis of PKD occurred at a mean age of 31.6 years. Caucasians comprised 92.2% of the respondents. Patients' symptoms, a family history of PKD, and discovery of PKD during evaluation for hypertension or hematuria were the most frequent factors that led to the diagnosis. Order of frequency of pain was: low back pain, abdominal pain, headache, chest pain, and leg pain. Severity of pain, documented by the VAS intensity, was 4 to 5/10 in the majority of patients.
Conclusion: Pain, which can be diffuse, is the most frequent symptom that led to the diagnosis of PKD in patients who responded to this questionnaire, and occurs with greater frequency than generally appreciated. Physicians need to obtain a detailed history about pain in their PKD population so as to allow an approach to pain management.