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Health Information For Parents
The kidneys play a critical role in the body: Acting as the body’s filtering system, they help control water levels and eliminate wastes through urine (pee). They also help regulate blood pressure, red blood cell production, and the levels of calcium and minerals.
But sometimes the kidneys don’t develop properly and, as a result, don’t function as they should. Often these problems are genetic and not due to anything a parent did or didn’t do.
Many of these problems can be diagnosed before a baby is born through routine prenatal testing and treated with medication or surgery while the child is still young. Other problems may appear later, with symptoms such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), growth problems, or high blood pressure (hypertension).
In some cases, the problems can be severe and require surgical treatment.
The kidneys are like the body’s garbage collection and disposal system. Through microscopic units called nephrons, the kidneys remove waste products and extra water from the food a person eats, returning chemicals the body needs (such as sodium, phosphorus, and potassium) back into the bloodstream. The extra water combines with other waste to become urine, which flows through thin tubes called ureters to the bladder, where it stays until it exits through the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body from the bladder) when someone goes to the bathroom.
The kidneys also produce three important hormones:
Kidney failure, which is also called renal failure, is when the kidneys slow down or stop properly filtering wastes from the body, which can cause buildups of waste products and toxic substances in the blood. Kidney failure can be acute (sudden) or chronic (happening over time and usually long lasting or permanent).
Acute kidney injury (sometimes called acute kidney failure) may be due to bacterial infection, injury, shock, heart failure, poisoning, or drug overdose. Treatment includes correcting the problem that led to the kidney injury and, in some cases,
The most common kidney diseases in children are present at birth. They include:
Congenital problems with the urinary tract: As a baby develops in the womb, part of the urinary tract can grow to an abnormal size or in an abnormal shape or position. These problems include:
Sometimes a child can have other health problems that affect how well the kidneys function. These can include:
The signs and symptoms of urinary tract or kidney problems vary and include:
If a kidney disease is suspected, the doctor will take a medical history, do a physical exam, and order urine tests, blood tests, imaging studies, or a biopsy to help make a diagnosis. These studies are usually suggested by a nephrologist, a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney diseases.
With urinalysis (a type of urine test), the doctor can quickly detect abnormalities (such as too many red blood cells) that may signal inflammation or irritation in the urinary tract. Urinalysis can also detect an of excess white blood cells, which is most commonly associated with bladder and kidney infections.
Certain blood tests tell doctors how well the kidneys are filtering waste products and balancing the bloodstream’s chemical makeup.
Two other important diagnostic tools doctors use are blood pressure and growth measurements. Along with the heart, the kidneys are crucial to determining blood pressure. High blood pressure in a child is an important sign that the kidneys need to be evaluated. Accurate growth measurements can provide a clue to diagnosing some kidney diseases because kids with chronic kidney disease often have growth problems.
The doctor may use a kidney biopsy to evaluate kidney function. A biopsy is a procedure in which a small piece of the kidney tissue is removed with a needle. Performed while a child is under anesthesia, it’s a simple procedure that can help make an accurate diagnosis of the kidney problem in about 9 out of 10 cases. It’s especially helpful in the diagnosis of nephritis and nephrosis.
In addition to standard X-rays, other imaging studies a doctor may use to help diagnose kidney diseases include:
Glomerulonephritis happens when tiny filtering units in the kidneys stop working properly. Most cases get better on their own or with treatment.
Hemodialysis is the type of kidney dialysis that doctors use most to take over the kidneys’ job of filtering the blood. Find out more in this article for teens.
Kidney stones mostly happen to adults, but sometimes kids and teens can get them. Find out what kidney stones are, how to treat them, and ways to help prevent them.
Nephrotic syndrome happens when tiny filtering units in the kidneys stop working properly. This can cause weight gain and other symptoms. Most kids eventually outgrow it.
This medical treatment helps people with kidney failure. It can be done at home, often overnight, to take over the kidneys’ job of filtering blood. Find out more in this article for teens.
This kidney problem causes acid levels in the blood to become too high, causing fatigue, muscle weakness, and other kidney problems. The condition is usually treatable.
A renal ultrasound makes images of your child’s kidneys, ureters, and bladder. Doctors may order this test if they suspect kidney damage, cysts, tumors, kidney stones, or complications from urinary tract infections.
Wilms tumor is a cancer of the kidneys that usually affects newborns and the very young. Fortunately, most kids with Wilms tumor survive and go on to live normal, healthy lives.
With glomerulonephritis, tiny filtering units in the kidneys stop working properly, causing problems like too much fluid in the body and swelling. Most of the time it can be treated. Find out more.
Hematuria is pretty common, and most of the time it’s not serious. Find out what causes blood in the urine and what to do about it.
Watch this movie about the urinary system, which produces pee.
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is more common in adults, but it can happen at any age. Learn what it is and how to treat it.
Sometimes, the kidneys can’t do their job properly. In teens, kidney disease is usually due to infections, structural issues, glomerulonephritis, or nephrotic syndrome.
The kidneys perform several functions that are essential to health, the most important of which are to filter blood and produce urine.
Recurrent urinary tract infections can cause kidney damage if left untreated, especially in kids under age 6. Here’s how to recognize the symptom of UTIs and get help for your child.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common in kids. They’re easy to treat and usually clear up in a week or so.
Parents of kids who have a chronic kidney disease often worry about what might happen next, how their child feels, and what treatments are likely to be involved. Find answers here.
Automated dipstick urinalysis results may point to a urinary tract infection (UTI) or injury, kidney disease, or diabetes.
If the kidneys stop working, a person will need either dialysis or a transplant. Get the facts on kidney transplant in this article for teens.
If your child needs a kidney transplant, you’re probably feeling lots of emotions. Fortunately, many kids who undergo kidney transplants go on to live normal, healthy lives.
Kidney stones mostly happen to adults, but sometimes teens can get them. Find out what kidney stones are, how to treat them, and ways to help prevent them.
The bean-shaped kidneys, each about the size of a child’s fist, are essential to our health. Their most important role is to filter blood and produce urine.
A microscopic urinalysis can help detect a urinary tract infection (UTI), kidney problems, diabetes, or a urinary tract injury.
Is your child having a urine culture or urinalysis performed? Find out why urine tests are performed, and what to expect when the doctor orders them.
When someone has hypertension (high blood pressure), the heart has to pump harder and the arteries are under more strain as they carry blood.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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