Doctors are seeing an increase in kidney stones in teenagers that has doubled over the past 20 years. It's a painful condition that recurs in many patients and can become a lifelong disease for some.
Gregory Tasian, MD, MSc, MSCE, attending urologist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia said, "It's a dramatic increase. I really describe it as an epidemic."
Why the increase in young people? New research suggests certain antibiotic use may be the culprit.
Dr. Tasian said, "The question becomes if antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily, for example a viral illness, that's where we need to focus our efforts."
Case in point: Emma Gaal who suffered her first kidney stone at just six-years-old.
PJ Gaal, Emma's mother, said, "When they said kidney stones, it was crazy. Doesn't seem like someone her age could get that."
Emma Gaal shared, "It feels like someone's stabbing you. All day, every day, until you pass it."
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"What that means for that child who has a stone earlier in life, is they have lifetime in which stones can recur." Dr. Tasian said.
Emma underwent laser surgery and had a stent placed in one of her kidneys.
The classes of antibiotics that doctors are researching as possible culprits are the following: Fluoroquinolones, sulfa drugs, cephalosporins, nitrofurantoin, and broad-spectrum penicillin, like Augmentin. Here are the symptoms of kidney stones to watch for:
"In a younger patient, for example, may just have belly pain, blood in the urine and nausea." Dr. Tasian shared.
Emma, who underwent laser surgery to evaporate her stones and had stents placed in her kidneys, is back in action in track and field and heads to college in the fall.
Emma said "I'm double majoring in special education and elementary education k-4 and I'm really excited."
Kidney stones, which can last a lifetime when kids get them at a young age, are associated with high blood pressure and decreased bone density. In addition to antibiotics, researchers are looking at environmental factors as possible associated causes.
Contributors to this news report include: Donna Parker, Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Robert Walko, Editor.