Learning Problems May Accompany Kidney Disease

Learning Problems May Accompany Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease may affect brain function in children and teens, especially those on dialysis, researchers say.

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Results of their study review suggest academic assistance may be needed in specific areas, including math and reading.

"In translating our findings to clinical practice, this research provides relevant information on the areas of need -- for example, working memory and mathematics -- for which children with [chronic kidney disease] may need guidance, practice and assistance, particularly for children on dialysis," said study author Dr. Kerry Chen. She's with the University of Sydney's Center for Kidney Research in Australia.

Chen's team analyzed 34 studies that included more than 3,000 chronic kidney disease patients younger than 21.

Compared to the general population, the patients had lower IQ scores and lower scores on tests of executive function (the ability to get things done), visual and verbal memory. They also had lower scores on academic skills associated with math, reading and spelling, the study found.

The findings were published Feb. 22 in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

This new research "also suggests hypotheses for why the overall intellectual and educational outcomes of children with [chronic kidney disease] are reduced compared with the general population, and how best to prevent deficits," Chen said in a journal news release.

Lori Hartwell, founder and president of the Renal Support Network, an American nonprofit organization, said it's not surprising that children and teenagers on dialysis are at greater risk of such effects.

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"Studies have shown a decline in cognitive function that has been associated with fluid and solute shifts while undergoing hemodialysis," Hartwell wrote in an accompanying journal commentary.

More information

The National Kidney Foundation has more on children with chronic kidney disease.


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