U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Children and Kidney Disease

Some diseases and conditions put children at risk for kidney disease. Just like for adults, a urine test is used to check for kidney disease befor​e symptoms appear. Learn about the risk factors, urine test, and treatment for kidney disease below.


What do the kidneys do?

Your child has two kidneys. Their main job is to filter wastes and extra water from the blood. Wastes and water pass through the kidneys and leave the body as urine. The kidneys also make hormones that help the body make blood and keep the bones strong

Graphic of a child with arrows pointing to the kidneys  

What is kidney disease?

Infections or other health problems can cause kidney disease. When a child has kidney disease, the kidneys may not work normally. This may lead to high blood pressure or a harmful buildup of wastes in the body.

How can I find out if my child has kidney disease?

A urine test can be used to check for kidney disease if your child is at risk. Testing is important because early kidney disease often has no symptoms. Your child will urinate in a cup, and the sample will be tested for kidney disease.
An image of a girl being handed a urine sample cup from a nurse  

What does the urine test look for?

The urine test checks for albumin. Albumin is a protein in the blood that is too big to pass through healthy kidneys. If your child's kidneys are damaged, small amounts of albumin can pass into the urine through the kidneys. In general, the more albumin there is in the urine, the more damaged the kidneys are.


What does high urine albumin mean?

A high urine albumin level may mean that your child has kidney disease. Your health care provider may do other tests for kidney disease, including a blood test, which checks how well the kidneys are filtering.

Can kidney disease be treated?

Kidney disease has many possible causes. The first step is to learn the cause of the kidney disease. Medicine and other treatments usually can't undo the damage that has been done, but they may help prevent more harm. Your provider may ask you to take your child to a pediatric nephrologist - a doctor who treats children with kidney disease.

How do I know if my child is at risk for kidney disease?

Your child may be at risk for kidney disease if he or she:
  • is overweight
  • has pain in the back, side, or lower belly
  • complains of burning or pain when urinating, has changes in the urine, or often wets his or her pants
  • has unexplained fever
  • has swelling in the feet, ankles, or legs
  • wakes up with swollen eyelids
  • becomes dehydrated often
  • has a family member with kidney disease

Other conditions that may put your child at increased risk for kidney disease include:

  • SGA (small for gestational age) or born premature
  • a growth disorder
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • rickets (soft bones caused by too little vitamin D)
  • other conditions that run in families, such as polycystic kidney disease, Alport Syndrome, or heart disease
  • becomes dehydrated often
  • has a family member with kidney disease

For more information about kidney disease in children call the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse toll free at 1-800-891-5390 or visit the Kidney Diseases A-Z Topic List.


Hope through Research

The NIDDK conducts and supports research to help people with kidney disease, including children. Parents interested in enrolling children in clinical trials of new treatments can find a list of centers at www.ClinicalTrials.gov.


Page last updated: March 1, 2012​​​​​

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