Kidney Disease in Children

Dr. Kevin Barton in pediatric nephrology discusses kidney disease in children.

What symptoms should parents look for with kidney disease?

The most common kidney diseases that we see, which really overall aren’t that common, are diseases where the kidneys either leak too much protein, or patients have visible blood in their urine. Typically, if your child is not feeling ill, swollen, or sick/nauseated, they can be handled on an outpatient basis and are not necessarily emergencies. My job is to determine whether or not those things are emergencies, meaning is there an actual acute kidney disease ongoing that can cause long-term damage. Luckily, the majority of the time, that’s not the case. Generally speaking, if children have acute kidney diseases, they’re sick, and they feel sick. The other challenge is that children who have underlying structural problems, which is the most common cause of kidney failure in children, can have that without any symptoms whatsoever until the kidney disease gets to be very late stage, almost close to needing dialysis. Those are the challenges that we face looking at acute and chronic kidney diseases in children.

What structural issues can be found with kidney failure?

Structural can be anything from the microscopic level to the filtering units inside the kidney all the way to bladder abnormalities, issues where the tubes that connect the kidney to the bladder, or tubes from the bladder outwards, are either connected inappropriately or not formed correctly, so their function is impaired.

What can parents do to ensure good kidney health for their child?

Good kidney health starts with good hydration and good bathroom habits. Make sure children are urinating regularly, not holding their urine, and not getting constipated. Constipation can cause recurrent urinary tract infections and urinary symptoms too. Both of those things go together. Make sure that their toileting habits are good, their diet is good, and that they’re not getting overweight. Those are all good things you can do to help prevent kidney disease or mitigate any kind of existing kidney disease that children may have.