Chronic Kidney Disease in Children

What Is Chronic Kidney Disease?

Kidney disease is short-term or permanent damage to the kidneys that results in loss of normal kidney function. There are two different types:

  • Acute kidney disease. Acute kidney disease starts suddenly. In some cases, it may be reversed, and the kidneys can work normally again.
  • Chronic kidney disease. This type gets worse over at time. It can lead to end-stage kidney disease.

What Causes Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic kidney disease may be caused by:

  • A long-term blockage in the urinary tract.
  • Alport syndrome. This is an inherited disorder that can cause deafness, kidney damage and eye defects.
  • Nephrotic syndrome. This is a condition that causes protein in the urine, low protein in the blood, high cholesterol levels and tissue swelling.
  • Polycystic kidney disease. This is a genetic disorder that causes cysts to grow in the kidneys.
  • Cystinosis. This is an inherited disorder. The amino acid cystine collects in cells in the kidney called lysosomes.
  • Other chronic conditions. Conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or chronic urinary tract infections can lead to kidney problems. If these aren't treated, less oxygen and blood can get to the kidneys.
  • Untreated acute kidney disease. Acute kidney disease may turn into chronic kidney disease if not treated.

Symptoms of Chronic Kidney Disease

  • Poor appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Bone pain
  • Headache
  • Stunted growth
  • Malaise
  • Frequent urinary accidents or no urine
  • Repeated urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Pale skin
  • Bad breath
  • Hearing problems
  • Stomach mass
  • Tissue swelling
  • Irritability
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Change in mental alertness

The symptoms of chronic kidney disease can look like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees their health care provider for a diagnosis.

Diagnosing Chronic Kidney Disease

Your child’s health care provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. They will give your child a physical exam. 

Your child’s doctor may order blood and urine tests. Other tests may include:

  • Renal ultrasound (sonography). This is a painless test that uses sound waves and a computer to create images of body tissues. During the test, a health care provider moves a device called a transducer over the belly in the kidney area. This sends a picture of the kidney to a video screen. The health care provider can see a growth, kidney stone, cyst or other problems.
  • Renal biopsy. The health care provider takes a small sample of kidney tissue with a needle or during surgery. A pathologist will examine the sample under a microscope.

Chronic Kidney Disease Treatments

Treatment of chronic kidney disease depends on how well the kidney is still working. Treatment may include:

Children’s Kidney Care at University Health

Learn more about pediatric kidney care at University Children’s Health in San Antonio. If your child needs a kidney transplant, our pediatric transplant team is one of the best in the nation.

Subscribe icon
Get healthy living and wellness information, recipes and patient stories from University Health.
View other related content by:

Tell us your patient story

Share your inspiring personal story of hope and healing at University Health.