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Here's how digestive issues can signal kidney problems in kids; know treatment

It is crucial to realise that gastrointestinal symptoms might also disguise renal problems in kids therefore parents can use this as an opportunity to consult their health care provider before the condition gets worse.

Written By: Kristina Das @ New Delhi Published on: June 14, 2024 13:30 IST
Digestive issues can signal kidney problems in kids
Image Source : FREEPIK Digestive issues can signal kidney problems in kids.

Digestive complaints that occur among children are commonly recognized by parents as trivial disorders, which may be due to improper diet or the presence of a mild infection. However, any desires that continue for a long period or severe digestive symptoms may be an early sign of other health complications such as kidney disorders. It is important to know the relationship between the work of the gastrointestinal tract and the state of the kidneys in order not to miss the problem promptly and receive suitable treatment. When we spoke to Dr Prakash Chandra Shetty Urologist from Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital, Powai, Mumbai, about the same he said, "As a urologist, I wish to bring to light how symptoms of digestive disorders in children can be a sign of kidney diseases." 

Various Stages of Digestion and its Connection with Kidneys 

Kidneys are particularly important as they help filter some waste products out of the blood and regulate fluid and electrolyte balance. If kidneys are not working as they are supposed to, then waste materials can build up in one's body, thus manifesting many signs and symptoms in the body such as digestive disorders. On the other hand, disorders of the digestive system can also affect the kidneys’ function in the human body. 

Some of the digestive symptoms that may indicate renal diseases in kids include: 

  1. Nausea and Vomiting: Kidney disorders may be also manifested through such general symptoms as regular nausea and vomiting. When kidneys fail to remove wastes and toxins from the body, these products end up spreading in the blood system, and this mainly causes nausea and vomiting when the body tries to eliminate these wastes. 
  3. Abdominal Pain: Lower back or side abdominal pain that lasts for a while or frequently recurring is one of the common signs of a kidney stone or an infection. Kidney stones’ pain is described as sharp, excruciating pain that often moves to the abdomen, while infections produce a throbbing, constant pain. 
  4. Loss of Appetite and Weight Loss: This is one of the possible outcomes of chronic kidney disease, having numerous waste products accumulate in the body results in poor appetite and eventually weight loss. Children may similarly become weak and tired and this in turn affects their nutritional status and growth.
  5. Changes in Urination: Despite it not being a typical digestive sign, alterations in the urine are another common occurrence in kidney disorders that are connected with digestion. The new signs that parents might observe are increased frequency of urination, pains on urination, or blood-stained urine.

Several medical conditions illustrate the connection between digestive issues and kidney health in children:

  1. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): UTIs can sometimes cause kidney infections known as pyelonephritis, which in turn give signs of the digestive system and may cause nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
  2. Nephrotic Syndrome: This kidney disease involves high levels of protein loss through urine leading to swelling particularly in the abdominal region. This can result in feelings of pressure and, at times, mild discomfort in the digestive system including the abdomen.
  3. Henoch-Schönlein Purpura (HSP): This autoimmune disease has been reported to be associated with vasculitis – inflammation of small blood vessels resulting in abdominal, vomiting and kidney complications such as hematuria and proteinuria.
  4. Kidney Stones: While it is quite rare for kids, kidney stones are still a possibility and are more often seen in adults. They can produce serious complications, especially abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

Diagnostic Approaches

Bowel disturbances in a child often warrant a comprehensive assessment to check whether the child’s kidney system is compromised in any way. 

Diagnostic approaches may include: 

  • Urine Tests: For this common reason, to ascertain the presence of blood, protein and other different results.
  • Blood Tests: In the determination of how well a patient’s kidneys are working, through estimation of creatinine and urea among others.
  • Ultrasound: This is to check the kidneys and find out any distortions of their shape, stones or signs of infection.
  • CT Scan or MRI: where necessary, additional imaging will be required for a better evaluation.

Treatment and Management

  • Infections: UTI and renal infections are treated with antibiotics.
  • Kidney Stones: Treatment could range from simple measures like drinking more water to complex ones like surgery depending on the size and position of the stone.
  • Chronic Kidney Disease: This may involve dietary changes, drugs, dialysis or even a kidney transplant in extreme cases.

Gastrointestinal issues among children, particularly when they become chronic or severe should never be overlooked. Parents should speak to a physician if their child shows signs of indigestion so that they can assess his/her problem effectively putting everything into place.

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