Did you know that children have kidney disease just as adults do? The kidneys are the body’s filtering system, helping to remove excess water and waste from the blood, then converting the waste into urine. They also help regulate blood pressure, red blood cell production, and the levels of calcium and minerals to maintain healthy bones.
Kidney problems in children are most commonly due to genetic abnormalities or other problems that occur in the womb which prevent the kidneys from developing properly. These children are born with kidney defects that can sometimes be surgically corrected but often lead to chronic kidney failure that requires kidney transplant.
Children may be born with normal kidneys, but later develop kidney failure. Kidney failure, also called renal failure, is when the kidneys slow down or stop filtering wastes from the body properly. This can cause the buildup of waste products and toxic substances in the blood leading to health problems.
Acute kidney injury (also called acute kidney failure) in children, may be caused by bacterial infection, injury, shock, poisoning, or drug overdose. This sudden loss of kidney function is often temporary and can be treated by correcting the problem that caused the kidney injury. In some cases, dialysis, the artificial filtering of blood, is used for treatment.
Chronic kidney failure can result from acute kidney injury that does not improve, birth defects, kidney diseases, blockage of the urinary tract and diseases of other systems in the body. It happens over time and is usually permanent. When diagnosed early, chronic kidney failure can be treated with dialysis, medications and diet, to slow the progression of the disease. At some point however, a kidney transplant is often needed.
A child with kidney disease may have pain in the back, side or lower belly; frequent urination, dehydration; burning or pain when urinating or swelling around the eyes, in the feet, ankles or legs.
How can you prevent kidney disease?
Unhealthy lifestyle habits in childhood and adolescence increase the risk for chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes in later years, which are the most common causes of kidney disease in adults. It is important that you make healthy lifestyle changes, not just for yourself but, for the entire family.
Get moving – Help your children get at least one hour of outdoor activity daily and don’t encourage more than two hours a day of screen time. Screen time is anytime that is spent watching television, playing on a computer, tablet or phone. Let your children suggest fun outdoor activities they would enjoy. Teach your children safe play to avoid injury.
Build healthy eating habits – Cook meals that include vegetables, fruits, lean meats and whole grains and eat healthy snacks. Replace soft drinks and other sweet drinks with water or juice with no added sugar. Avoid alcohol and stop smoking. Make a fun pact as a family to keep each accountable to eat healthy foods only. Try to eat together as a family as often as possible.
Get regular well checkups for your children – Your children should get routine well check ups by a pediatrician to ensure that they are healthy, growing appropriately and meeting their developmental milestones. At least 7 visits in the first year of life, 3 visits between 1 – 2 years old, 2 visits between 2 – 3 years of age and once a year after 3 years old. These well visits are an opportunity for the pediatrician to pick up on any early signs of kidney disease.