Doctors see dramatic increase in kidney stones in teens - culprit may be prescription medications

Doctors are seeing an increase in kidney stones in teenagers that has doubled over the past 20 years.

It's a painful condition that recurs in many patients and can become a lifelong disease for some.

Dr. Gregory Tasian is a pediatric urologist.

"It's a dramatic increase. I really describe it as an epidemic," he said.

A kidney stone is a hard, crystalline mineral material formed within the kidney or urinary tract.

So why the increase in young people? New research suggests certain antibiotics and an increased use of them may be the culprit.

"The question becomes if antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily, for example a viral illness, that's where we need to focus our efforts," Tasian said.

Case in point: Emma Gaal, who was diagnosed with her first kidney stone at just 6 years old.

"When they said kidney stones, it was crazy. Doesn't seem like someone her age could get that," PJ Gaal, Emma's mother, said.

Emma Gaal described the pain she felt.

"It feels like someone's stabbing you - all day, every day, until you pass it," she said.

Tasian said when children have kidney stones they can get them again later in life.

"What that means for that child who has a stone earlier in life, is they have a lifetime in which stones can recur," Tasian said.

The classes of antibiotics that doctors are researching as possible culprits are the following: Fluoroquinolones, sulfa drugs, cephalosporins, nitrofurantoin, and broad-spectrum penicillin such as Augmentin.

Here are the symptoms of kidney stones parents should watch out for:

"In a younger patient, for example, they may just have belly pain, blood in the urine and nausea," Tasian said.

Emma, who underwent laser surgery to evaporate her stones and had stents placed in her kidneys, is back in action in track and field and heads to college in the fall.

"I'm double majoring in special education and elementary education K-4 and I'm really excited," she said.

Kidney stones are associated with high blood pressure and decreased bone density.

In addition to antibiotics, researchers are looking at environmental factors as possible associated causes
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