Healthbeat: Rise in kidney stones in teens

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.

"It's a dramatic increase. I really describe it as an epidemic," said Dr. Gregory Tasian, urologist at CHOP.

Why the increase in young people? New research suggests certain antibiotics use may be the culprit.

"The question becomes if antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily, for example a viral illness, that's where we need to focus our efforts," said Dr. Tasian.

Case in point: Emma Gaal, who suffered her first kidney stone at age 6.

"When they said kidney stones, it was crazy. Doesn't seem like someone her age could get that," said PJ Gaal, mother.

"It feels like someone's stabbing you. All day, every day, until you pass it," the younger Gaal said.

"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.

Doctors are researching classes of antibiotics as possible culprits. Among them are fluoroquinolones, sulfa drugs, cephalosporins, nitrofurantoin, and broad-spectrum penicillin, like Augmentin.

There are certain symptoms of kidney stones that parents can watch for.

"In a younger patient, for example, they may just have belly pain, blood in the urine and nausea," Dr. Tasian said.

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 will begin college in the fall.

"I'm double majoring in special education and elementary education k-4 and I'm really excited," she said.

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.

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