Kidney stones now hitting more teens

We spent Christmas Day 2011 in the hospital with our youngest son. The ordeal started out with excruciating pain. When M pointed out where his pain was coming from, I had a bad feeling it would be kidney stones. I knew. Because years ago, I also had the same pain. In that same area. I felt so helpless seeing him writhing in pain in the emergency room, knowing exactly what kind of pain he was going through. I wouldn’t wish it on my enemy.

Hospital personnel who attended to my son often had the same reaction upon finding out he was just a teen. “Ang bata pa!” (“So young!”). And I would agree because during my time, only people past their prime and approaching senior years were diagnosed with kidney stones.

To make the long story short, M had a stent placed inside him for months. His physical activities in school were cut down to barest minimum. We had to finish his graduation and summer classes before going for a procedure called Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) which used sound waves to blast the stones lodged in his ureter. A month later, he underwent another ESWL – this time to target the 2 stones in his kidney.


(photo courtesy of Kidney Stone 911)

I’m relating our story after reading this article that talks about more American teens also being diagnosed with kidney stones.  Those who followed the most recent American Idol on cable TV also know that its latest winner, 21-year old Philip Phillips, also suffered from kidney stones and in fact missed several rehearsals to get medical attention. All these made me start to realize that today’s youth lifestyle and diet have a lot to do with the possible formation of kidney stones.

Fast food as well as chips are the food choices of the youth these days. Imagine how heavily laden with salt these stuff are. Combine that with a preference for soda over water and you have an almost perfect formula for stone formation.

But as a parent, should you be concerned? I say, YES. We need to be conscious of what our kids eat (at home, in school and elsewhere). Let’s not wait for our kids to suffer this pain because it is easily prevented. Reduced salt intake, awareness of other foods that contribute to kidney stone formation, and sufficient water intake.

Here are some things parents can do:

* Cut soda from your family’s diet. I was a heavy softdrinks person before. Now, I rarely take it and instead opt for water or fresh juice. At home, we no longer serve soda on the family table. Even our “Sundays only” for soda has been stopped. It may be hard for you to wean your family from soda initially especially if it has been part of your lifestyle but slow withdrawal might help until everyone. My kids were heavy soda drinkers but now I find them choosing juice or milk products over soda when we eat out.

* Increase water intake. As long as the stone isn’t large enough to block the ureter, it can be passed out with sufficient water intake. Since we live in a tropical country, water intake is even more important as we sweat a lot. Kids have to slowly learn to drink water. I think plain water is better than sports drinks (which contain sodium) or flavored water (these have sugar). Juices should preferably be fresh than out of a bottle or can.

* Become more aware of what you put into your grocery cart. I have began to read labels, taking note of sodium content. Food with a lot of preservatives and canned goods are at the lower end of my shopping priority.

* Research on the foods to avoid to prevent stone formation. I continue to do this because I sometimes get conflicting information on the web. However, being better educated on which foods have been known to increase chances of stones is important so you can plan the dishes you can serve at home.

* Teach your child to make healthy food choices. We can only do so much when our child is at home or with us at parties and gatherings. But what about those occasions when they are in school or in a party by themselves. Do they know how to choose food that won’t aggravate stone formation? The only way is to educate them, teaching them which dishes to avoid and which are okay.

* Have your child checked for kidney stones even before the onset of pain. Early detection can save everyone the expense and your child the excruciating pain. He/she may already have stones but the size could still be passable. The urologist may ask for an ultrasound of the kidney. If the ultrasound confirms the presence of stones, at least you can take immediate action.

I’m glad my boy has taken to drinking water. I guess that extreme pain was enough for him not to want to go through it again. I sure don’t want to experience it myself ever again. The pain is almost akin to childbirth. One of the worst pains ever.

Has anyone in your family experienced pain from kidney stones? Please share your story with me and how you addressed it.

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3 thoughts on “Kidney stones now hitting more teens

  1. No kidney stones experience in my family yet. Thank God! And thanks to you Jane for writing about this and for giving tips. It’s true that processed foods, which may be unhealthy, are plenty these days. Worse, they are pretty much accessible to kids. Will put your tips in mind. 🙂

    • Good for you, Meikah! It’s really important we supervise what our kids eat (at home and outside). And water, water, water! 🙂

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