Kidney Stones on the rise among children, warns medical experts

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Kidney stones afflicting more children, medical experts warn.

LOS ANGELES, May 1: The perception of kidney stones as primarily an adult concern is being challenged by medical professionals, who are witnessing a surge in cases among children. Also referred to as renal calculus disease, nephrolithiasis, or urolithiasis, kidney stones are affecting an increasing number of Americans, with approximately 11 percent expected to experience them at some point in their lives.

Kidney stones, small and hard mineral deposits formed in the kidneys, can vary in size and severity. While many pass naturally through urine, larger stones often require surgical intervention, as seen in the case of four-year-old Alex Zellers.

Alex’s struggle with kidney stones stems from cystinuria, a genetic disorder inhibiting the absorption of certain amino acids. Dr. Greg Tasian, a pediatric urologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, explained that cystine, one of these amino acids, accumulates and crystallizes in the urine, leading to the early formation of kidney stones.

For Alex, the stones grew to significant sizes, necessitating surgical removal by specialists. His mother, Kate, described one stone as “a giant dense egg,” illustrating the severity of his condition.

While cystinuria is rare, accounting for only one percent of kidney stone cases, Dr. Tasian notes a concerning trend of rising kidney stone occurrences in children overall. Factors contributing to this surge include dietary habits, medication use, and environmental conditions such as warmer temperatures.

Processed foods high in sodium, often staples in children’s diets, can contribute to mineral buildup in the urine, a precursor to kidney stones. Additionally, disruptions in the intestinal microbiome, potentially caused by antibiotic overuse, have been linked to stone formation.

Dehydration, exacerbated by low fluid intake, can also increase the risk of kidney stones by leading to concentrated urine. Dr. Tasian warns that as temperatures rise due to climate change, the incidence of kidney stones is expected to climb further.

Kidney stones, formed from waste products in the blood, manifest in symptoms such as abdominal pain, blood in urine, and nausea. While smaller stones can pass naturally, larger ones often require surgical removal.

To mitigate the risk of kidney stones, Dr. Tasian advises individuals to prioritize hydration, reduce consumption of sugary and salty foods, and maintain a balanced diet.

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