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Does Kidney Disease Run In Your Family?

September 14, 2023

Does Kidney Disease Run In Your Family? - featured image

Kidney disease, also known as nephropathy, is a condition that affects the kidneys’ ability to filter waste and excess fluids from the blood. While there are many causes of kidney disease, Dr J Moodley a nephrologist at Busamed Private Hospital in KZN says genetics plays a significant role in some cases.

Dr Moodley says there are several genetic conditions that can lead to a person living with kidney disease. Genetic conditions are inherited or acquired genetic mutations that can cause various medical ailments.

“One of the most common genetic kidney diseases is Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). It is caused by mutations in genes that lead to the formation of cysts in the kidneys and other organs. In dominant inheritance, PKD is one of those diseases that are passed down from an affected parent to child. Each child had a 50% chance of being affected as only one copy of the affected gene is required to manifest the disease. While having cysts on the kidneys are not normal, some cysts are benign, says Dr. Moodley. These benign kidney cysts do not cause any symptoms. In the case of PKD however, these cysts cause the kidneys to become enlarged as it becomes filled with multiple cysts and as a result the kidney begins to fail.

Dr Moodley says there are various genetic syndromes that can cause inherited kidney disease. (IKD) He says that the mutations in genes, could affect “the reabsorption of water and electrolytes in the kidneys.” Without intervention, IKD can also lead to kidney failure.

In addition to genetic syndromes, certain genetic factors also play a role in the risk a person faces for developing kidney disease. Dr Moodley says these genetic factors include people with a family history of kidney disease “who are more likely to develop the condition themselves.” This, he says, is because certain genetic factors can make a person more susceptible to kidney damage.”

When it comes to treatment, Dr Moodley says that a patient with a genetic condition that causes kidney disease, would be advised that their treatment options might be different from those of someone with a different cause of kidney disease like diabetes. We might find that a patient has PKD and they may need to take medications to slow the progression of the disease and protect their kidneys whereas a patient with a different presentation of kidney disease might deteriorate rapidly and might require renal replacement therapy (dialysis).

In the 21st century, however, early interventions are well in place. Dr Moodley says genetic testing can help identify people who are at risk of developing kidney disease and this data can then allow the person to take steps to slow the condition progressing. These steps would include lifestyle changes or taking medications to protect their kidneys.

Dr Jay Moodley

Dr Jay Moodley

Nephrologist
Busamed Gateway Private Hospital.

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