What? My child has a kidney stone?!
Kidney stones are small, hard masses made of crystals that occur in the urinary tract. Kidney stones are commonly thought of as being an issue for adults, but they are being seen more frequently in children.
How do kidney stones form?
The kidneys remove waste and extra fluid from the body through urine. Urine contains salts and minerals, like calcium, oxalate, and uric acid, which normally pass without issues as they are very diluted. However, if the levels of the salts and minerals increases or the urine is very concentrated, then crystals can form, get stuck in the kidney, and grow into stones.
What are the symptoms of kidney stones?
This depends on the age of the child. Younger kids may present with vague symptoms like abdominal pain, irritability, and/or crying during urination. Older children may present with severe, sharp pain in the back or sides of the abdomen that sometimes radiates to the lower belly and groin. Other symptoms include:
- Blood in the urine
- Pain with urination
- Urinating often or having urgency
- Pain that waxes and wanes
If your child has any of these symptoms, go the doctor as soon as possible. Stones can lead to blockage of urine flow and infections.
What will the doctor do?
The doctor will take a history that includes questions about symptoms, lifestyle, and medical and family history. After an examination, if the doctor thinks the child has a kidney stone, labs to check the urine and blood will be obtained. Imaging studies, such as an ultrasound or CT scan, may also be needed to determine the size and location of the stone.
How are kidney stones treated?
Small stones can usually pass in the urine without intervention. Drinking plenty of water and using over-the-counter pain relievers may be all that is needed to decrease pain from stones. Sometimes a medication to dilate the ureter is used to ease stone passage. Straining the urine will help catch the stone so it can be sent for testing to determine its composition.
A hospital stay is usually needed for stones that are causing pain not relieved with over-the-counter medications, lead to vomiting and dehydration, lead to urine flow blockage, or are too large to pass. Intravenous fluids, stronger pain relievers, and medication to help the stone pass may be needed. For stones too large to pass, a urologist will need to see your child as intervention with surgery or another procedure is usually required.
Will my child have another kidney stone?
It is possible as there is a higher risk of having another one later. It is not always possible to prevent stones. In general, however, drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated is important. Depending on the type of stone and/or results of lab tests, a change in the types of food the child eats may help (for example, decreasing salt/salty food intake). Prescribed medications may also be needed to reduce the levels of salts/minerals in the urine.
How did my child end up with kidney stones?
Some children who develop stones have an underlying condition that increases their risk of developing stones. In other cases, diet and lifestyle habits increase the risk of stone formation. Some types of stones run in families.
Risk factors for stone formation:
- Previous history of stones
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Unhealthy diet and lifestyle
- Urinary tract problems/abnormalities
- Medical conditions (ex. metabolic disorders, cystinuria, and cystic fibrosis)
Note: This information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.