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Kidney Stones in Children

Kidney stones are hard crystals or deposits formed inside of the kidneys. The condition is relatively uncommon in children, but it can occur when salts and other minerals in the urine bond together. One risk factor is a high-sodium diet. Symptoms of kidney stones can include pain that 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 on your child’s symptoms and level of discomfort, a pediatric urologist will order an ultrasound or X-ray to confirm a diagnosis of a kidney stone. Ultrasound is a painless diagnostic imaging study performed by specially trained pediatric sonographers that can determine the size and location of any stones.

Treating Kidney Stones

Many stones will pass without the need for surgical intervention. Your child’s doctor may prescribe pain relievers to help ease the discomfort as the stone passes through the urinary tract.

If surgery to remove the stone is required, it is usually due to the size of the stone being too large to pass. Our pediatric urologists will suggest a follow-up with a pediatric nephrologist 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.

Preventing Kidney Stones in Children

To help your child avoid kidney stones, consider the following professional advice:

  • Stay well hydrated: Make sure your child is drinking an adequate amount of fluid. Limit carbonated beverages and 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.
  • Limit salt: Limit your child’s sodium intake. You can help children avoid temptation by taking the saltshaker off the table. Limit eating out, fast foods, and processed foods, as these also contribute to higher sodium intake. Decreasing urinary sodium also decreases urinary calcium, which are leading culprits in kidney stone formation.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Make sure your child eats fruits and vegetables of all colors for a healthy, well-balanced diet.
  • Stay active and 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.