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This past weekend I had the privilege to attend the 3rd Botswana International Renal Conference which was arranged by Nephrology Society of Botswana (Nesbo). This was a well-attended conference with well acclaimed international and local speakers under the theme; “Advancing Kidney Care in Sub Saharan Africa”.
What stood out for me as an adult physician was the plight of pediatricians and pediatric nephrologists in treating kidney disease in children. Hence this week I decided to discuss the above topic to sensitize readers on when to suspect kidney disease in children.
Kidney disease in children is not very common. There is limited data with regards to the prevalence of kidney disease in children, however it remains a debilitating condition when it occurs especially worse in low resourced areas. Kidney disease is a condition whereby the kidneys are unable to filter the blood properly through the kidneys resulting in an accumulation of toxic waste and fluid in the body.
It can be classified as acute or chronic kidney injury depending on whether the decrease in kidney function is over a short period of time or its gradual over a long period of time.
In the early phases of kidney disease, they may be no symptoms, however as the disease progresses these children become symptomatic. Some of the symptoms suggestive or worrisome of kidney disease include; swelling of the feet, hands and puffiness of the face, a decrease in urine output, some children may have an increase in urine production resulting in bed wetting, a change in the colour of urine resulting in coke colored urine and foamy urine.
Other non-specific symptoms of kidney disease include; tiredness, poor appetite, stunted growth, weakness, nausea, vomiting, itchiness and shortness of breath. These symptoms vary amongst children depending on the nature and the severity of the kidney disease.
They are several conditions that cause kidney disease in children. The commonest being birth defects, infections, urine blockage or reflux, nephrotic syndrome, systemic diseases and hereditary conditions.
When kidney disease is suspected it is important to contact a health care professional timeously. Several tests can be done including urine tests, blood tests, and ultrasound scan of the kidneys in order to diagnose a kidney disease. When necessary, a kidney biopsy can be done, which a procedure where a small piece of a kidney is taken with a needle and viewed under a microscope to assess the nature of the kidney disease. In certain instances, genetic testing is also done to diagnose genetic disorders that cause kidney disease.
Early diagnosis and treatment of kidney disease is important to avoid long term complications. When not adequately treated these children are often left very sick with very poor outlooks in future.