Kids and Kidneys: What Parents Should Know

What should you know about your child’s kidneys and when should you seek help? The pediatric nephrologists (children’s kidney specialists) at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital offer comprehensive services for kidney problems of all kinds — with an emphasis on accurate and early identification of potential issues. Here, Dr. Robert Woroniecki, Division Chief of Pediatric Nephrology and Hypertension, and Dr. Katarina Supe-Markovina, Director of the Pediatric Hypertension Center at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, discuss what every parent needs to know.  

What do healthy kidneys do?

The kidneys are made up of millions of tiny filtering units called nephrons and are located just below the rib cage on both sides of the spine. Their job is to clean the blood, maintain a balance of salt and water, and help regulate blood pressure and red blood cells. The extra fluid and waste that the kidneys remove from the blood are passed along to the bladder and then out of the body as urine.

What can go wrong with kids' kidneys, and why?

Kidney problems in children can range from reversible disorders without long-term effects to chronic disease and kidney failure. The causes of kidney disease include birth defects, hereditary diseases, infection, nephrotic syndrome, systemic diseases, trauma and urine blockage or reflux. Diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure) also can be factors.  

What are the symptoms of kidney disease in kids?

Early kidney disease shows few if any signs. Some children show mild puffiness around the eyes and face, or have foamy urine. As the disease progresses, there may be swelling of the eyes and feet, nausea and vomiting, fatigue and loss of appetite, and blood or protein in the urine. Kids may also present with symptoms of high blood pressure such as headache, chest pain, blurry vision or nose bleeds. Acute kidney disease develops rapidly, is brief in duration, and may be curable if the underlying cause is treated. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) requires long-term management and tends to get worse over time. Kids with CKD or kidney failure (also known as end-stage kidney disease or ESKD) face many challenges, including a slow growth rate, urinary incontinence, delayed language and motor development.  

How is kidney disease treated at Stony Brook Children's?

Stony Brook Children’s has the only pediatric nephrology service in Suffolk and Nassau counties that can manage the full spectrum of pediatric kidney diseases. We offer diagnosis and evaluation, medical management, surgical treatment, dialysis and monitoring. We also are Long Island’s only hospital performing kidney transplants in children — and we have a 100 percent success rate in new kidney function one year post-surgery. Our board-certified specialists in pediatric nephrology are leaders in researching new treatments, which means our patients have access to the most advanced treatments available. Our team’s pediatric nurse practitioner has a master’s in child health nursing and a specialization in helping families address the many complex issues that kidney disease can involve.   

Why is high blood pressure an issue with children and kidney disease - and what is Stony Brook doing about it?

Hypertension, or higher than normal blood pressure, is an increasing problem in children because obesity and metabolic disorders have become more common. Hypertension puts children at risk for heart disease, stroke and CKD later in life. Stony Brook Children’s is addressing this issue through the region’s first Pediatric Hypertension Center. The Center takes a multidisciplinary approach bringing pediatric specialists together to develop a comprehensive program. During evaluation, ambulatory blood pressure monitoring is used to track the child’s blood pressure changes for 24 hours. Children also have an electrocardiogram and echocardiogram performed at the Hypertension Center. Each child’s program is then individualized to include family education, counseling, and lifestyle and medical management.  

How do I know if my child has hypertension?

High blood pressure may have no symptoms. The best way to uncover it is through blood pressure readings at well-child visits. Children who are overweight or obese should be checked regularly. The same goes for children who fall into higher risk categories, such those with identified kidney problems, born prematurely, or on certain medications that may elevate blood pressure.  

For more information about Stony Brook Children’s, call (631) 444-KIDS (5437).


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All health and health-related information contained in this article is intended to be general and/or educational in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with a healthcare professional for help, diagnosis, guidance, and treatment. The information is intended to offer only general information for individuals to discuss with their healthcare provider. It is not intended to constitute a medical diagnosis or treatment or endorsement of any particular test, treatment, procedure, service, etc. Reliance on information provided is at the user's risk. Your healthcare provider should be consulted regarding matters concerning the medical condition, treatment, and needs of you and your family. Stony Brook University/SUNY is an affirmative action, equal opportunity educator and employer.