Children & Kidney Disease

Healthy kidneys keep your whole body healthy and growing. Blood flows through the kidneys which clean the blood by filtering excess waste products, water and salt from the blood. Kidneys regulate blood pressure and balance the body’s chemicals. They play a very important role in a child’s growth by producing hormones that promote red blood cells, regulate the amounts of nutrients from food that are necessary for growth and help to metabolize growth hormones.

What causes kidney failure in children?
The risk of kidney disease is about 20 times greater for adults than for children. There are many different causes of kidney failure in children including resulting from an injury or poisoning.  Some problems are congenial or hereditary, meaning the child was born with them. Some children develop kidney failure because urine refluxes, or flows back, from the bladder into the kidneys instead of being excreted. This disorder may be associated with urinary tract infections, but may produce no signs or symptoms until severe kidney damage has occurred. Your pediatrician or family doctor is the best source for information about kidney problems in children.

What are the treatment options for a child with kidney failure?
Treatment options for anyone with kidney failure are transplantation or dialysis. Transplantation means that a healthy kidney is placed in the patient’s body to do everything a healthy kidney should do. The patient will still need medication, regular check-ups and a restricted diet to ensure that that the new kidney is functioning properly.

Dialysis is an alternative method of cleansing the blood. Peritoneal dialysis cleans the blood through a soft tube inserted into the abdomen. The dialysis fluid flows into the abdomen, cleans the blood and is extracted. This procedure can be done at home usually during the night while the child sleeps. Hemodialysis uses a filter machine called a dialyzer to clean the blood outside the child’s body. This system takes place in a clinic usually three times a week. Your pediatric nephrologist will advise you on the best treatment for your child.

Is a transplant always the best goal for a child with kidney failure?

Yes. Usually the nephrologist's goal is to have pediatric patients transplanted as soon as possible to allow the child to lead the most normal life possible. However, there may be circumstances when an extended period of dialysis is preferred before transplantation is undertaken. 

Do children with kidney failure experience social issues?

Children with kidney disease may development some learning problems, have problems concentrating or develop motor skills and language skills more slowly than others. Because of their small stature and delayed cognitive development some children may experience difficulty interacting with their peers.

It has been found that being open about the disease with others, partaking in physical activity or sports even on a limited basis and being involved with school and extracurricular activities as much as possible can be most helpful in enabling the child to develop social skills and self esteem.