Crystals in infant urine are common and do not necessarily signal a serious problem. It is important, however, to discuss this symptom with a paediatrician and to have the infant evaluated. Urine crystals can simply be the sign of a faulty diaper or they can be the sign of malnutrition.
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Colors of Crystals
The colour of the urine crystals often signals the severity of the problem. Clear crystals often come from the diaper itself. Moisture absorption is the purpose of these crystals, but occasionally they leak out of the diaper. Typically, such crystals are no cause for concern. On the other hand, orange or pink crystals, comprised of calcium and urate, come from the infant's urine. Doctors call this condition "brick stain." It usually indicates that the baby is dehydrated.
Younger vs. Older Infants
Brick stain in very young babies--those who are only a few days old--is common and usually not serious. Breastfed babies drink colostrum for their first few days of life. Colostrum is a nutritious liquid that a mother produces for 3 to 5 days before her milk comes in. Because mothers produce only small amounts of colostrum, very young babies often get slightly dehydrated. The dehydration is usually no longer an issue when the baby begins to drink milk. Brick stain in older babies, though, may be a more critical sign of malnutrition.
Inadequate Milk Intake
Orange urate crystals in older infants are often signals that the baby is not getting enough milk. This condition may result when a mother does not produce enough milk or when a baby does not suck properly to ingest enough. A paediatrician will weigh the baby to determine whether he is gaining weight at a healthy pace. If not, the paediatrician will generally suggest that the mother supplement her milk with formula until the baby's weight stabilises and the crystals disappear.
In rare instances, crystals in infant urine are the indication of a serious disease called Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome. Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome is a disorder resembling cerebral palsy. Affected children exhibit dysfunctional motor skills, poor cognitive development and abnormal behaviour. Many children with Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome never walk. One major sign of Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome is an overproduction of uric acid, thus urate crystals in urine may signal the disease. Therefore, it is important to identify the disorder as early as possible for the best outcome.
In most cases, urine crystals are the result of faulty diapers. If an infant has clear crystals in her diaper, a paediatrician usually does not need to see her. However, orange or pink crystals may signal a mild to serious problem. Parents should consult a paediatrician immediately if infants have coloured crystals in their diapers.
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