Children's Hospital Colorado

Pediatric Oxalosis

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What is oxalosis?

Oxalosis is a condition that affects the kidneys and can damage them, leading to kidney stones and kidney failure (end-stage renal disease). The name of this kidney disorder is derived from the chemical, oxalate, which occurs naturally in many foods. With oxalosis, the body is overloaded with oxalate and the body is unable to break down the chemical. When the kidneys are unable to break down the oxalates, they can overload the kidneys and damage them.

What causes oxalosis?

Oxalosis is a caused by a buildup of oxalate. There is typically an enzyme that breaks down oxalate so it cannot build up. However, some people are born with a genetic mutation that affects these enzymes. The change in function of these enzymes is caused by a group of rare genetic disorders known as primary hyperoxalurias (PHs).

The enzymes that are affected by PH aid in the digestion process, helping to break down the foods we eat. Oxalates are usually broken down along with the food, but because the enzymes have a mutation due to PH, they are not able to break down the oxalates. Instead of being digested and passed through stool or urine, the oxalates build up in the kidneys and other organs.

This buildup of oxalates can also occur in people who have certain types of gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses, such as short bowel syndrome. In people with these types of GI illnesses, the buildup of oxalate is usually milder than with oxalosis brought on by genetically mutated enzymes.

Who gets oxalosis?

The conditions associated with enzyme mutations are rare but have been found across all genders and ethnicities. Like other genetic mutations, primary hyperoxalurias can be passed down through the parents.

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