Kidney stones have always been considered an adult health problem, but physicians are increasingly seeing them occur in children. The increase is so dramatic that some hospitals have opened kidney stone clinics as part of their pediatric care.
Having a kidney stone can be an excruciating experience. Pain in the abdomen, back, side, or groin is one of the primary symptoms. The condition occurs when minerals in the urine crystallize and solidify into hard deposits in the kidney. Most kidney stones eventually pass through the urinary tract on their own, but a small percentage require medical intervention.
The most complete data available on the numbers of children diagnosed with kidney stones in the US are from a 2003 study. According to those findings, the odds a child younger than 5 would be hospitalized with kidney stones in a given year were 1 in 70,840; for children between 6 and 10 years of age the chances went up to 1 in 38,150; and for adolescents 11 to 15 the chances were 1 in 20,270. However, many physicians have been reporting a noticeable rise in the incidence of kidney stones in their younger patients in the past several years, so the odds today may be even higher.
The reason that kids are developing more kidney stones is not entirely known. Dietary changes may be to blame; because kidney stones are often caused by an imbalance in the salts in the urine, they can arise when kids drink too little water and consume too much salt in their diet. A more sedentary lifestyle and a subsequent rise in metabolic problems like obesity and diabetes may also account for some of the higher incidence of kidney stones in kids. In addition to these lifestyle factors, many cases in children seem to be linked to a family history of developing kidney stones.