West News Wire: Kidney stones were regarded as a disease of middle-aged white men thirty years ago. Doctors are now more frequently treating a distinct type of patient who is experiencing excruciating agony, particularly in the summer.
According to recent data, kidney stones are hard deposits of minerals and salts that can block the urinary tract are becoming more common in younger people, especially teenage girls.
Although experts are unsure of the exact cause, they hypothesize that a number of factors, including diets high in ultra-processed foods, increased use of antibiotics early in life, and an increase in dehydration cases brought on by climate change are to blame.
Doctors told NBC News that the summer is the time of year when they encounter the most children with kidney stones.
Kidney stones is a metabolic disorder, also known as nephrolithiasis, that occurs when minerals such as calcium, oxalate and phosphorus accumulate in urine and form hard yellowish crystals as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball in severe cases. Some stones make their way out the urinary tract with no issue, but others can get stuck, blocking the flow of urine and causing severe pain and bleeding.
In recent years, hospitals across the country have opened pediatric “stone clinics” to keep up with demand, where children can meet with urologists, nephrologists and nutritionists to get the care they need to treat and prevent future kidney stones.
Kidney stones in adults are linked to conditions such as metabolic syndrome, obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
“In children, we’re not seeing that,” said Dr. Gregory Tasian, a pediatric urologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “They’re otherwise healthy and simply come in with their first kidney stone for unclear reasons.”
Finding the aetiology has been a major focus of Tasian and his team’s nephrolithiasis study in youngsters in the U.S. “Clearly something has changed in our environment that is causing this rapid shift,” he stated.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, 10% of Americans at some point in their lives will have kidney stones. Children as young as 5 years old can have stones.
Although the prevalence of kidney stones in children is uncommon, it is uncertain due to the majority of study focusing on adults.
One estimate is based on data from a 2016 research Tasian directed that included about 153,000 adults and kids in South Carolina who had undergone emergency, inpatient, or surgical treatment for nephrolithiasis.
The research, published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, found that the annual incidence of kidney stone disease rose 16% from 1997 to 2012, with 15- to 19-year-olds experiencing the greatest increase. Within this age group, kidney stone incidence was 52% higher among girls and women. The disease became more common in men beginning at age 25.
Overall, the risk of kidney stone disease doubled during childhood for boys and girls, while women saw a 45% increase of risk in their lifetime over the 16-year study period. Black adults and children in the study also developed kidney stones at greater rates than whites.
Similar trends have been reported in other studies, including one conducted in Olmsted County, Minnesota, which found that the kidney stone incidence rate among children ages 12-17 increased 6% a year from 1984 to 2008..
Experts believe that kids’ worsening diets may play a role.
High amounts of sodium from potato chips, sandwich meats, sports drinks and packaged meals can force extra minerals into the urine that can clump into kidney stones. It’s especially likely if a child doesn’t drink enough water or drinks too many sweetened beverages high in fructose corn syrup.
It’s like trying to dissolve sugar into a nearly empty cup of coffee, said Dr. David Chu, a pediatric urologist at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago who conducts research with Tasian.
Drink plenty of water, especially during warmer months, experts say.
Not sure you’re drinking enough? Make sure your urine resembles a light lemonade color, Carpenter said. If it’s darker, hydrate more.