Reporting Dr. Maria Simbra
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Kidney stones are not something you’d expect in kids, but more and more of them are ending up in emergency rooms.
So what’s causing this drastic increase?
“Real bad stomach pain, throwing up, thought it was the stomach flu,” says Vicki Wiggins of North Beaver Township.
“It, like, felt like I was getting stabbed in the side, and it hurt really, really bad,” says her son Michael.
Two years ago, the adolescent went to the hospital with excruciating pain on the side of his belly. A CT scan led to an unexpected diagnosis.
“I thought, like, only older people got it. It caught me by surprise,” says Michael.
“We thought it was appendicitis, but it’s not, it’s kidney stones,” says Vicki. “I didn’t believe it. We really didn’t believe it because even though we have a history in the family it just didn’t seem right. Like, an 11-year-old having kidney stones.”
Turns out, it’s not so unusual anymore.
“Children between the ages of 12 and up, we’re really seeing an alarming increase in the incidence of kidney stones,” says Dr. Michael Moritz, a nephrologist at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. “About one in a thousand emergency room visits appear to be for kidney stones, and this seems to have doubled in the past 10 years. I think we’re typically seeing a little over one a week.”
Calcium, magnesium and phosphorous are substances normally found in the urine. A kidney stone can form when these become highly concentrated.
That can happen for a number of reasons: blockages in the urinary tract, genetic conditions, infections and diet.
“They’re hearing it more and more with the fast foods and the junk foods, and the kids drinking pop and everything, and no exercising,” says Vicki.
Michael admits that was his problem, “Fast food, frozen stuff, not a really good diet.”
Now, he and his family have drastically changed his approach to eating.
“I make, like, lemonade and salsa myself, like, homemade,” he says.
“You have to read all the labels, you get fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, frozen vegetables, no more TV dinners,” says Vicki.
It’s easier to stick to that at home. But at school?
“How many 13-year-olds do you know wanna eat chicken salad instead of nachos and cheese? But they did say he was allowed to cheat every once in a while,” says Vicki.
What does Michael miss the most?
“The junk food and the fast food,” he says.
Luckily, he didn’t need a procedure to go in and remove the stones. They were small enough to pass on their own. He hasn’t had any more for two years, but he gets regular urine and blood tests.
“Once you have a kidney stone, you’re at higher risk for developing another kidney stone,” says Dr. Moritz.
In adults, kidney stones are more common in men. In kids, it’s equal, male and female. Dr. Moritz worries the pattern in children hints at a pattern we might soon see in adults.