Managing College and Kidney Disease


Every fall millions of young adults head to college, either as freshman or as returning students. This is a time of tremendous excitement, some tears, and wary expectation. Students have packed their old car (if they haven’t made a car donation to Kidney Cars with it!) with clothes, textbooks, bedding, and anything else to outfit a dorm room or apartment. They go off in anticipation of lectures, reading, papers, and hours of study. For college students dealing with polycystic kidney disease, there is a whole different set of preparations needed to navigate college successfully.

Stress Management

Stress can be a major contributor to the development of cysts in PKD patients. For college students stress seems to be a way of life, but PKD students need to manage their schedules in a way that allows them to avoid last minute study crunching and cramming for tests. Those late nights might look okay in a movie, but they can be destructive to your health. Here are a few tips to manage stress at college:

  • Take a reasonable course load (don’t overbook yourself)
  • Use a date and time planner. Schedule study time.
  • Alternate difficult classes on different semesters. (Two extremely time consuming classes might be better on two different semesters.)
  • Keep late nights to a minimum. Good sleep is a good for your health.
  • Utilize the student resource center if you need help with time management.

Pain Management

Chronic pain is an unfortunate part of PKD and it can be debilitating. Stress management can help to reduce the increase of cysts, but pain may already be a part of student’s life. Some pain can be managed through the use of over the counter medicines and others may require surgery. Be certain to gauge your pain, understand it’s causes, and act accordingly. Be proactive with your health care team and communicate your needs clearly with your doctor. Finding a doctor where you are attending college is essential to a PKD patient’s health and wellness. A doctor can help with proper pain management and can help determine the best way to deal with the cause.


Time management really is a college student’s best skill and PKD students who are on dialysis will need to master it. Because the dialysis process can take as much as 12-16 hours a week for some patients, a student will need to work their class and study schedule around it. But the time does not need to be wasted. Those dialysis hours can be spent reading, studying, taking notes, and listening to required recordings. This scheduled "down time" can actually help a PKD college student to succeed in classes.