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Childhood Kidney Stones May Lead To Long-Term Health Concerns

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University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children'sExperts in Children's Health
kidney stones in kids

The pain strikes suddenly, does not let up and usually comes with a wave of nausea and vomiting. An increasing number of kids and teens have experienced the agony of kidney stones. Now health experts have concerns about their long-term health.

In the short term, kidney stones can cause severe pain due to urinary tract blockage and could lead to urinary tract infections. Without intervention and determination of the cause of kidney stones, the risk for more frequent stone formation often increases with age. Frequent urinary obstruction from kidney stones can lead to scars and damage within the kidney.

There are rare forms of kidney stones that require specialized treatment and when left untreated, can result in chronic kidney disease and other health complications. Pediatric nephrologists and urologists can help determine the type of stone a child is having and provide customized education on dietary or medication intervention to help prevent stones in the future.

Diet, Hydration Play Key Roles

One study shows boys and girls ages 10 and younger now have double the risk of developing kidney stones as they did 15 years ago. Teen girls already faced the greatest risk – and they also saw the biggest spike in cases.

Another report found an estimated one in 685 children admitted to the hospital each year were diagnosed with kidney stones.

Doctors cannot put a finger on the reason for the rise. “Changes in kids’ diets may play a role,” says Christina Nguyen, MD, chief of pediatric nephrology at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s. “Many young people overdo it on sodium and do not get enough calcium – a recipe for stone formation. Others may not drink enough water, another risk factor.”

Help For Your Kid’s Kidneys

Problems with diet or fluid intake and imbalances in certain electrolytes and urinary substances contribute to most cases of childhood kidney stones. Some children may be more prone to developing stones if other family members have also had them.

“Encourage your child to drink less soda – the sugars it contains have been linked to stones – and plenty of water,” Dr. Nguyen says. “This keeps things flowing through the urinary tract. School-age kids should aim for five cups per day, while teens may need up to 11 cups.”

What To Watch For

Children experience kidney stones similarly to adults. Keep an eye out for these signs:

  • Sharp pain in back or lower abdomen
  • Blood in urine
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty with urinating or pain when urinating
  • Fever and chills

The constant or severe pain in the back or side may move down into the groin as your child passes the stone. Younger children may just complain that their tummies hurt.

Call a pediatrician if your child develops these signs. Larger stones, which can block the urinary tract, may require hospital treatment.

Treatment Options

Small stones often pass on their own. If symptoms are severe and cannot be managed with over-the-counter medicine and/or your child cannot drink fluids, they may need intravenous fluids and medication to decrease pain and nausea. For larger stones that cannot pass, surgery may be needed. Your doctor may recommend X-rays, ultrasound or a computed tomography (CT) scan for further evaluation. Blood and urine tests also may be needed to check kidney function and to look for urine abnormalities.

Once the stone has passed or been treated, your doctor may recommend additional testing with advice on lifestyle changes, medications or other steps to prevent future stones from forming.

Related Links

UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital's  pediatric kidney program is among the best in the nation for treating pediatric renal disease, and has been consistently ranked as one of the top children’s hospitals in nephrology by U.S. News & World Report.  Our pediatric nephrologists have advanced training in managing kidney problems in children. They are also experienced in treating complex cases, including rare genetic disorders and kidney failure that requires dialysis or kidney transplantation. Learn more about pediatric kidney services at UH Rainbow Babies.

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