How to Know if Your Child Has Kidney Stones

Three Methods:Recognizing the Signs and SymptomsDiagnosing and Treating a Kidney StoneUnderstanding How Kidney Stones Are Formed

The medical term for kidney stone is kidney calculus. Calculus means “pebble” in ancient Latin, and that is what a kidney stone is: minerals and other substances in the urine solidifying into a “pebble”. These stones can develop throughout your child’s urinary system, within their kidney, or in their ureter or bladder. Although kidney stones occur most frequently in adults, the frequency of kidney stones in children is on the rise.

Part 1
Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms

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    Be aware the symptoms of a kidney stone vary by age. Most of the symptoms result from extreme pain occurring as the stone passes down your child’s ureter (the tube between the kidney and bladder) or from the sudden pressure in your child’s kidney because the stone is blocking urine flow.
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    Seek medical attention if your baby or toddler cries continuously and appears to have abdominal pain. There are numerous conditions that may cause these symptoms, including a kidney stone.[1]
    • It may be hard to tell if your infant or young child has a kidney stone, as they may only show general symptoms like irritability, severe or prolonged crying, and vomiting.[2]
    • Your doctor or pediatrician should do a urinalysis on your infant or toddler. If unexplained microscopic blood is detected on a urinalysis, this may be the only tip off your child has a kidney stone.
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    Notice if your older child complains about lower abdominal pain. Older children with kidney stones will have symptoms similar to the symptoms of a kidney stone in an adult, including lower abdominal pain, usually only on one side, that could be severe and episodic (come and go).[3]
    • Abdominal pain may indicate that the stone is moving down your child’s urinary tract, or is blocking urine flow from their kidney.
    • Typically, your child will be unable to find a position that diminishes their pain. If your child is a boy, he may describe the pain as in, or radiating to, one of his testicles on the same side as the abdominal pain.
    • If they are experience pain on the right side of their abdominal, this can be a sign of appendicitis, especially when there is no blood in their urine.
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    Take your older child to the doctor if there is blood in their urine. This could be a sign of several serious medical conditions, including kidney stones.[4]
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    Bring your child to a doctor if it hurts when they pee. The doctor should do a culture of their urine, as the stones may be an indication of a urine infection.[5]
    • You child may also experience nausea and vomiting when the pain becomes very severe.
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    Check if your family has a history of kidney stones. Your child may also be more susceptible to kidney stones if they have had one before.[6]
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    Look at your child’s diet and any medications they are taking. If your child is on a ketogenic diet, which is sometimes used to treat seizures, they may be more likely to develop kidney stones.[7]
    • Certain medications used regularly, including diuretics (furosemide, bumetanide), acetazolamide, cisplatinum, and allopurinol, can also lead to the development of kidney stones.
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    Monitor any congenital abnormalities of your child’s kidneys or urinary tract, as well as any hereditary diseases. If your child was born with issues like slow draining urine from their kidney or a kidney cystic disorder, they may be more susceptible to kidney stones.[8]
    • Hereditary diseases like cystic fibrosis, Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome, Bartter’s or Gitelman Syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease can all also lead to the development of kidney stones.

Part 2
Diagnosing and Treating a Kidney Stone

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    Allow your child’s doctor to do an x-ray on their abdomen. Though this x-ray may be uncomfortable for your child, it can be easily and quickly done by a radiologist.[9]
    • Some kidney stones are dense enough to appear on an x-ray.
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    Let your child’s doctor do an ultrasound or sonogram on their abdomen. An ultrasound study (sonogram) is moderately sensitive to stones in your child’s kidney and bladder, but cannot detect if there are any stones in your child’s ureter.[10]
    • However, it is safe and non-invasive screening test for stones.
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    Get a referral for a CT scan for your child. A CT (computerized tomography) scan uses x-rays to get 3 dimensional images of the entire urinary tract. A CT is very sensitive and can usually detect stones that are not clear in x-rays.[11]
    • Keep in mind that this test will expose your child to significant doses of x-radiation and, although widely available, is usually reserved for cases where additional information is required for the diagnosis or anatomy of the urinary tract.
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    Make sure your child drinks a lot of fluids. This will help the kidney stone to pass.
    • In fact, for most children who have had, or are at risk of a kidney stone, the chances of forming a stone can be significantly reduced with a consistent robust fluid intake.
    • A general daily fluid intake goal is based on your child’s age. Ages 2-5 should have 42-62 ounces of fluid a day, ages 8-10 should have 75-85 ounces of fluid a day, and ages 13-18 should have 100-120 ounces of fluid a day.[12]
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    Give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help with their pain. Use the written doses as specified on the package.
    • If pain medication is ineffective, or your child’s fluid intake is poor, take them to the hospital to help with pain control and fluid administration.

Part 3
Understanding How Kidney Stones Are Formed

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    Be aware most kidney stones are caused by certain dietary minerals and substances that form solid crystals. These crystals then increase in size over time in your child’s kidneys and/or urinary tract. The crystals develop due to a buildup of minerals such as calcium, phosphate, uric acid, and oxalate in your child’s body.[13]
    • The most common type of kidney stone forms when calcium in your child’s urine combines with oxalate.
    • Oxalate is naturally found in many foods. It also is formed in our body as the result of the normal metabolism of substances such as Vitamin C.
    • Increased oxylate in the urine often also occurs in people with inflammatory bowel disease.
    • Food such as rhubarb, spinach, peanuts, strawberries, wheat bran and chocolate all contain large amounts of oxylate.[14]
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    Limit your child’s salt intake or amount of salty foods they eat. The amount of calcium in the urine increases when your child’s diet contains large amounts of sodium chloride, or common table salt.
    • This can contribute to stone formation in children at risk for calcium-containing stones.
    • Keep in mind excess calcium in your child’s urine is usually the result of too much intestinal absorption or excessive kidney excretion. Rarely, it may also be caused by the abnormal production of certain hormones, and very rarely it may be the result of a tumor.
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    Monitor your child’s intake of foods high in purines. Most of the uric acid in the urine comes from the breakdown of dietary purines. Foods rich in purines include fish, in particular herring, mackerel and sardines, red meat, dried beans, peas, and organs such as cow kidney.
    • Uric acid also is produced from the regular turnover of body cells in your child’s body.
    • Certain very rare inherited diseases also result in the production and excretion of uric acid.
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    Keep an eye on your child’s intake of foods rich in phosphates. These include seeds and nuts, beans, cheese and dairy products, salmon and shellfish, and red meats.
    • Cystine is another amino acid that can cause kidney stones. It can be excreted in very high amounts in people with a rare hereditary disease affecting their cystine metabolism, called cystinuria.[15]
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    Avoid eliminating any foods completely from your child’s diet until you get a diagnosis. In some cases, an altered diet can increase your child’s kidney and urinary tract issues, rather than solve them.[16]

Article Info

Categories: Urinary Health