Kids can get Kidney Stones

By Jyoti Upadhyay, MD

Kidney stones are not just for adults anymore. Like Type 2 diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure, kidney stones now strike a growing number of children.

The kidneys are trash collectors, filtering waste material and extra water from the bloodstream. This combination of waste and water becomes urine, which travels through tubes called the ureters to the bladder and out of the body, through another tube called the urethra.

When there is too much waste material and not enough water in the kidneys, the waste material can crystallize into a stone. Stones can be jagged or smooth and as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. Stones can stay in the kidney or travel into the ureters, bladder or urethra. Small stones can be passed in the urine, but larger ones can become stuck, sometimes blocking the flow of urine and causing tremendous pain.

Although stones are much more common in children who have underlying metabolic disorders or physical abnormalities of the urinary tract, they can also form after urinary tract infections or because of dehydration because there is not enough water in the urine to dilute the concentration of waste material. Certain medications (for example diuretics and some anti-seizure drugs) also put children at risk of stones, as does a family history of developing kidney stones.

Symptoms of kidney stones in children may include blood in the urine, pain in the back or side, fever, vomiting, feeling the need to urinate and pain on urination. When a stone is blocking the urinary tract, the pain is usually very severe. But stones that are not causing a blockage may cause milder symptoms, or symptoms that come and go.

Treatment of pediatric kidney stones depends upon the size, composition and location of the stone. Although some have to be removed surgically, minimally invasive techniques can often be used. After stones are removed, treatment plans and dietary changes – such as decreasing salt intake and increasing water intake – can help prevent recurrence.

By Dr. Upadhyay is a pediatric urologist with CHKD Surgical Group’s Children’s Urology.