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Kids can get kidney stones too

November 12, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
It's thought of as mainly an adult health problem, but kids now are being diagnosed with kidney stones. And with kids it can be tough to diagnose because the symptoms can be all over the map and pediatricians simply aren't expecting to find them in children. When Alex Sandosky was 12-years-old, she started having tummy trouble. Her pediatrician thought she had a virus.

"I just started like throwing up like periodically like every two weeks," said Sandosky.

The episodes became more frequent. Alex's mom decided to see a specialist. An ultrasound revealed kidney stones.

"Most people are very surprised that their child has a kidney stone. Most people think of kidney stones as an adult disease," said Dr. Alice Neu, Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

But experts are seeing it in more and more kids.

"We typically see eight to ten patients in a clinic each session. We receive calls from new patients with kidney stones almost every day," said Dr. Neu.

Some as young as infants and toddlers. Stones are collections of minerals in urine that crystallize and bind together. They're tough to diagnose because symptoms vary from vomiting to backaches and Dr. Neu says there is one telltale sign.

"If their child tells them if they have dark urine or bloody urine, they would want to give their physician a call," said Dr. Neu.

If left untreated, stones will continue to grow and could lead to kidney damage. While genetics plays a tiny role, a leading culprit is a diet high in salt.

"That's because it alters the excretion of calcium and other substances that form the kidney stones," said Dr. Paul Austin, St. Louis Children's Hospital.

So parents should limit things like soda, chips and processed foods. Also kids should drink plenty of fluids.

"Water increases the solubility of many of the minerals and waste products that are excreted in urine and are a key component of prevention," said Dr. Austin.

Alex underwent three surgeries to clear her kidneys. Today, she remains in prevention mode, drinking plenty of water and watching her salt.

Dr. Neu says studies suggest a link between obesity and kidney stones in adults, although no studies have been completed in children yet.


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