Angie's LIST Guide to
Pediatric Kidney Care

Kidney problems are dangerous medical issues that can be fatal without the proper treatment. Children with kidney problems typically require prompt and regular pediatric kidney care from a pediatric nephrologist.


Photo collage of babies and doctors.
Children often are diagnosed with illnesses and conditions that affect adults, but because of their special needs, they are often referred to pediatric specialists. Specialists in all areas can provide treatment plans to improve health and quality of life.

Importance of pediatric kidney care

Nephrology is a field of medicine that involves maintaining the health of your kidneys. Pediatric nephrology involves the care of the kidneys of infants, children and adolescents.

The kidneys are located in the back of your body, beneath the ribcage and on either side of the spine. These bean-shaped organs are primarily responsible for filtering wastes from the blood and sending any extra fluids through the ureters to the bladder. From the bladder, you then excrete the fluid waste as urine. The kidneys also help regulate blood pressure by producing renin, an enzyme that helps control the restriction of blood vessels.

If the kidneys aren't working properly, this can cause several problems. First, the kidneys won't successfully filter waste material from the blood and subsequently rid excess fluid from the body. Because renin is so instrumental in regulating blood pressure, children with kidney problems may face blood pressure problems as well.

Like other medical specialists, pediatric nephrologists need to earn their bachelor's degree in premed or a related field and complete medical school and an internship in internal medicine. They also will need to complete a pediatric residency as well as a fellowship in pediatric nephrology.

Symptoms of kidney problems

Hereditary problems and birth defects cause the majority of pediatric kidney problems in infants and young children. Kidney problems in children also might be caused by such things as womb injury or a mother's substance abuse during pregnancy. According to the National Kidney Foundation, low-birth-weight babies are 70 percent more likely to suffer from chronic kidney problems later in life.

Kidney problems in children also might be acute or chronic. Acute problems generally come on suddenly, either before or after birth, but can usually be cured with the proper treatment with little or no lasting damage. Chronic kidney problems, on the other hand, are recurring, and many may even become lifelong problems.

The symptoms of kidney problems in children can vary. But if a child has high blood pressure, it is almost always a sure sign of a kidney problem. Other possible signs of kidney problems in children include poor growth and edema, which is fluid retention and swelling, usually in the feet, ankles and face.

Painful, frequent or infrequent urination can indicate kidney problems as well. Some children suffering from kidney problems might find it hard to control their urination and may experience incontinence even when they are past the age of potty training. Blood in the urine is another common sign that a child may need to see a pediatric kidney care specialist.

Choosing a pediatric nephrologist

Children experiencing kidney problems should see a pediatric nephrologist as soon as possible. A child's pediatrician often can refer you to a pediatric kidney specialist, but you should do your own research and choose the best one for your child's particular condition.

First, you should consider a pediatric nephrologist who accepts your health insurance plan, as pediatric kidney care is almost impossible to afford out-of-pocket. Read through the provider directory available from your health insurance company and locate some kidney specialists. Verify their qualifications, education, continuing education, accepted insurance plans and affiliated hospitals by consulting Angie's List, where you can also see member reviews and rankings. A good pediatric nephrologist should have many more positive reviews than negative reviews.

You and your children should feel comfortable with your chosen specialist. The nephrologist should be friendly, relate well to children and patiently answer all questions. He or she should also take into consideration the wants and needs of your child and your family during the course of treatment.

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