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Health Spotlight | Kids and their battles with kidney stones

Health Spotlight | Kids and their battles with kidney stones

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — When you think of kidney stones, you may think of middle-aged men. But that’s changed dramatically over the last 20 years. More women are now experiencing them. In fact, 11% of Americans will have a kidney stone at some point in their lives. It’s less common in children, but even that’s changing. And for children, it can be a life-long battle.

Four-year-old Alex Zellers knows what he likes. For such a little guy, he’s been dealing with a very big problem.

One in his kidney is the size of a golf ball. Another in his bladder is the size of a lacrosse ball.

“It’s just like a giant dense egg. It’s just a big mass,” said Alex’s mom, Kate.

Alex was born with a genetic disease called Cystinuria.

“Your body doesn’t absorb certain amino acids and that cystine accumulates and crystallizes in the urine forming stones early in life,” said Dr. Greg Tasian, a pediatric urologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Alex has recurrent UTI’s and blood in his urine. There is no cure.

“You develop stones very early in life and that continues through the lifespan,” explained Tasian.

Dr. Tasian says the stones were so large he had to surgically remove them and although Alex’s stones are rare, Dr. Tasian says he is seeing more and more kids with kidney stones. The cause is a combination of factors including kids eating more ultra processed foods, overuse of antibiotics, and hotter temperatures causing dehydration.

“As the world becomes warmer through climate change, that is expected to increase the number of stones,” said Tasian.

The three most important things you can do are drink plenty of water, drink less sugary drinks, and decrease your salt intake.

As for Alex, he will always be at risk for developing stones, but with careful watching and medication, they should be able to control them.

Stones can cause higher risk of high blood pressure and heart attacks, as well as higher risk of fractures, and loss of kidney function. Studies show that both boys and girls are at risk of kidney stones, but they tend to happen more in teen girls.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.