Complications of kidney disease in children
- Medically reviewed by
- AKF's Medical Advisory Committee
- Last updated
- March 28, 2022
When a child has kidney disease, the kidneys do not filter waste from their body in the way that healthy kidneys do. Toxins and wastes can build up in the blood, leading to complications such as anemia, high blood pressure, protein in urine and poor nutrition. These complications can interrupt growth and development of the body and brain.
Children with kidney disease grow and develop slower than other children their age. On average, children with kidney failure go through puberty two years later than healthy children.
The best way to improve the growth of a child with kidney disease is to manage their health complications. A doctor might also suggest supplements or growth hormones to help the child grow normally and reach adult height. Talk to your child's pediatrician before trying any new medicines.
Kidney transplant is considered the best treatment option for all people with kidney failure, including children. After a child receives a kidney transplant, they may have a fast increase in growth, called catch-up growth.
Complications from kidney disease can affect the normal growth of a child's brain. A child with kidney disease may have:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty learning
- Difficulty remembering things
- Harder time learning to talk
- Harder time learning to walk
- Lower scores in school
- Poor visual spatial awareness (e.g., hand-eye coordination)
Anemia is a common complication in children and adults with kidney disease. It happens when the body cannot make enough red blood cells. Anemia can cause a child to feel tired, dizzy, or have a hard time concentrating. Talk to your child's pediatrician about treatments for anemia.
The kidneys play an important role in keeping bones healthy. Children with kidney disease often develop problems with their bones, like bone disease or weak and brittle bones. To help prevent bone disease, a doctor might suggest certain foods to eat, medications or growth hormones.
Compared to healthy children, children with kidney disease may also have:
- Behavior problems
- Emotional problems
- Issues with self-image
- Nerve damage
- Sleep problems
- Trouble controlling their bladder
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