Kidney disease is not a health problem reserved for adults: children may have kidney disease or health problems that can increase their chance of developing kidney disease as adults.
Health problems or conditions present at birth are the main cause of kidney disease in children. Health issues that may begin early in life and continue into adulthood, such as obesity, could lead to kidney disease later on.
The body has two kidneys, which filter extra water and waste from blood to make urine. They also help control blood pressure and make hormones the body needs to stay healthy. Kidney disease prevents the kidneys from filtering blood as they should. This damage can cause waste to build up in the body, leading to serious health problems.
A child with kidney disease may have pain in the back, side or lower belly; frequent dehydration; burning or pain when urinating or swelling in the feet, ankles or legs. Some children have no symptoms that are obvious to their parents or caregivers, but a doctor can detect problems during a regular medical checkup.
When Children Are Overweight or Obese
Overweight and obese children and teenagers have a greater chance of developing health problems as they get older, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease.
About one in three children and teens in the United States are overweight or obese. Childhood overweight and obesity rates are higher among African Americans, putting them at greater risk for health problems, including kidney disease. For example, about one in four black youths are considered obese compared with one in six white youths.
Although it can take years for diabetes to cause kidney disease, research shows that more 20- to 39-year-old African Americans are developing kidney disease, which may be due to more people becoming obese and being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at younger ages.
Preventing Kidney Disease: What You Can Do?
If you think your child may have kidney disease, ask your health care provider about getting him or her tested. Providers test for kidney disease with a urine test that checks for albumin, a type of protein in urine, and a blood test that shows how well the kidneys are filtering. Detecting and managing the disease early is critical to delaying or preventing kidney failure.
You can help protect your children from kidney disease and its causes, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, later in life by having you entire family adopt a healthy lifestyle. Healthy eating habits and regular physical activity can help you, your children and other family members maintain a healthy weight and reduce the chances of developing health problems. Here are some tips for getting started:
• Get moving. Encourage your children to be more active. Limit TV and computer time to no more than two hours a day and ask your children to suggest ideas for being active instead. You can involve the whole family in a walk or bike ride to the playground, a game of touch football or a dance party. Children should get an hour of physical activity every day.
• Support healthy eating habits. Be a role model for healthy eating by choosing healthy snacks and cooking meals that include vegetables, fruits, lean meats and whole grains. Replace soda and other sweet drinks with water or juice with no added sugar. Avoid alcohol, and if you or your children smoke, join them in taking steps to quit. Ask your children to go grocery shopping with you and let them help plan and prepare family meals and pack their own healthy lunches. Try to eat together as a family as often as possible.
• Communicate. Talk about why it is important to make healthy decisions. During family activities, discuss how being active helps bodies grow stronger and stay healthy. Chat about how to make healthy choices about food and activities at school, at friends’ houses and other places outside of the home.
“This March, during National Kidney Month – and throughout the year – the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) encourages African Americans and others at risk for developing kidney disease to learn about kidney health,” said Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers, NIDDK director. “Developing healthy lifestyle habits can help your children and entire family avoid kidney disease and other serious health problems.”
The NIDDK website has more information about kidney disease and related health topics.