Childhood Kidney Stones May Lead To Long-Term Health Concerns

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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 lead to urinary tract infections and bone fractures. By adulthood, kids who pass them may be prone to poor heart health and chronic kidney disease.

Doctors are not totally sure why, but think it could be that having stones decreases the kidney’s function. They also suspect that problems with how the body uses calcium, which forms kidney stones and can harden arteries, might play a role.

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 contribute to most cases of childhood kidney stones.

“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:

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

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. For larger stones, treatment includes drinking even more fluids to flush out the stone. Your child may need intravenous therapy to receive them or medication to decrease pain.

Once the immediate threat passes, the doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, medications or other steps to prevent future problems.

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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