Kidney stones are hard crystals or deposits that form inside of the kidneys when salts and other minerals in the urine bond together. In children, kidney stones are relatively uncommon, but high sodium diets have been shown to increase the occurrence of stones. Kidney stones can cause a child pain and may obstruct the flow of urine as the stone attempts to move into the ureter (tube that connects the kidney and bladder).
Symptoms of a kidney stone
A child with a kidney stone may complain or have one or all of the following symptoms:
- pain in the abdomen, side or back
- blood in the urine
- frequent urination
- nausea and/or vomiting
Diagnosing a kidney stone
Kidney stones can affect each child differently, depending on your child’s age, the size of the stone and if the stone has started to pass out of the kidney and into the ureter. If your child is experiencing pain and also has blood in his or her urine, it is important to have your child evaluated by a doctor.
Based upon your child’s symptoms and level of discomfort, a pediatric urologist will order an ultrasound to confirm a diagnosis of a kidney stone. This painless imaging study performed by the specially trained pediatric sonographers at Chesapeake Urology For Kids will be able to show your child’s doctor the size and location of any stones.
Treating Kidney Stones
Many stones will be able to pass without surgical intervention. Your doctor may prescribe your child pain relievers to help ease the discomfort as the stone passes through your child’s urinary tract.
In less common situations, surgery to remove the stone may be ordered, especially if the stone is too large to pass. Follow up with a pediatric nephrologist will be recommeded to prevent recurring kidney stones. In cases of large kidney stones, a pediatric nephrologist may also be consulted to evaluate kidney function prior to treatment.
How Can Kidney Stones Be Prevented?
Preventing kidney stones in your child starts with determining why the stones are forming in the first place. Once the stone has passed or has been surgically removed, a metabolic evaluation can be performed to determine risk factors such as family history and diet.
Some steps you can take to help your child avoid forming future kidney stones include:
- Stay well hydrated. Make sure your child is drinking an adequate amount of fluid. Limit carbonated beverages as well as sports drinks which contain higher levels of sodium. Water is best for staying hydrated. Lemonade made with real lemon juice has citrate which can also be good for the urinary system.
- Cut the salt. Limit the amount of sodium in your child’s diet. Don't add salt to food and take the salt shaker off the table to avoid temptation. Limit eating out, fast foods and processed foods which also contribute to higher sodium intake. Decreasing urinary sodium also decreases urinary calcium, which are leading culprits in kidney stone formation.
- Eat the rainbow. Make sure your child is eating fruits and vegetables of all colors for a healthy, well-balanced diet.
- Stay fit. Some research suggests a link between obesity and the formation of kidney stones. Keep your child active and fit and at a healthy weight for his or her age.