The Youth at Risk: A Growing Concern for Kidney Disease

Kidney Disease and Youth
Kidney disease and kidney failure are conditions that affect individuals of all ages, including children. While it might be surprising to think of kids having such ailments, the reality is that numerous factors can contribute to these conditions in young individuals. Understanding why children may develop kidney disease or kidney failure is crucial for raising awareness and taking preventive measures.

There are several potential causes of kidney disease in children, including:

1. Congenital anomalies: Some children are born with structural abnormalities in their kidneys, such as polycystic kidney disease, renal dysplasia, or obstructive uropathy.

2. Inherited conditions: Certain genetic disorders can lead to kidney problems in children, such as Alport syndrome, cystinosis, or nephronophthisis.

3. Urinary tract infections (UTIs): Severe or recurrent UTIs can sometimes lead to kidney damage if left untreated.

4. Glomerulonephritis: This refers to inflammation of the glomeruli (tiny blood vessels) within the kidneys and can be caused by various factors like infections (such as strep throat), immune system disorders, or certain medications.

5. Systemic diseases: Conditions that affect multiple organs in the body may also impact the kidneys. Examples include systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), diabetes mellitus, and Henoch-Schönlein purpura.

6. Kidney stones: Although less common in children than adults, kidney stones can still occur and cause damage to the kidneys if not properly managed.

7. Medications and toxins: Certain medications or exposure to toxic substances may harm the kidneys and result in kidney disease.

It’s important to note that this is not an exhaustive list and that each case of pediatric kidney disease is unique. If you suspect your child may have a kidney issue or if they have been diagnosed with one already, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and management.

Dialysis Treatment
When children experience kidney failure and are waiting for a transplant, they typically undergo dialysis treatment to help manage their condition. Dialysis is a medical procedure that helps remove waste products and excess fluid from the body when the kidneys are unable to perform these functions adequately.

There are two main types of dialysis:

1. Hemodialysis: In hemodialysis, blood is filtered outside the body through a machine called a dialyzer. The child’s blood flows through tubes into the dialyzer, where it is cleaned before being returned to their body.

2. Peritoneal Dialysis: Peritoneal dialysis involves using the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum) as a natural filter. A special fluid called dialysate is introduced into the abdomen through a catheter, and waste products and excess fluid pass from the bloodstream into this fluid. The used fluid is then drained out and replaced with fresh solution.

The choice between hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis depends on various factors such as age, medical condition, lifestyle preferences, and availability of resources.

While waiting for a kidney transplant, children on dialysis may need to make certain lifestyle adjustments to accommodate their treatment schedule. This can include regular visits to healthcare facilities for hemodialysis or performing peritoneal dialysis at home with proper training and support from healthcare professionals.

It’s important for children in this situation to receive comprehensive care from pediatric nephrologists who specialize in managing kidney disease in young patients. They will closely monitor their health status while providing guidance on diet restrictions, medication management, emotional support, education continuity (if applicable), and overall well-being during this challenging time.

Prevalence among youth:

As of January 2022, according to data from the United States Renal Data System (USRDS), there were approximately 1,200 children and adolescents (under 18 years old) receiving dialysis treatment for kidney failure in the United States.

It’s important to note that this number may vary over time as new patients start dialysis and others transition to kidney transplantation. Additionally, statistics may differ in other countries or regions.

Youth and Kidney Transplant:

In the United States, according to data from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) as of January 2022, there were approximately 1,800 children and adolescents (under 18 years old) on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. This represents around 3% of all individuals waiting for a kidney transplant in the country.

Kidneys for Kids is a 60-page activity book that helps children understand kidney disease, dialysis, and transplant in an easy-to-understand engaging format. This book was written by Anyssa Dang to help her younger brother Kavan who was diagnosed with kidney disease and didn’t understand what was happening.

caring a child with kidney disease

Learn more about pediatric kidney disease at RSN’s For Kids and Parents web page.

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