PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There’s a dramatic increase in the number of teenagers being diagnosed with kidney stones.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has new research underway to improve prevention strategies for kidney stones.

Seventeen-year-old Emma Gaal was in first grade when she was first diagnosed with kidney stones. Ever since, she has been on a mission to find the best prevention strategies that work for her. She has found that drinking 100 ounces of water a day and staying hydrated is the best way to prevent kidney stones from returning.

“It’s difficult trying to keep up with it,” said Emma.

Staying hydrated is the best way for her to prevent kidney stones from coming back.

“I had a lot,” said Emma. “I don’t know how many in both kidneys, it hurt for a while.”

She’s part of a troubling new trend of teenagers with kidney stones.

“I would call it an epidemic,” said Dr. Greg Tasian, a urologist at CHOP’s Pediatric Kidney Stone Center. “Stones in adolescent girls has increased by 5 percent per year, so it’s a dramatic increase.”

Kidney stones are hard pieces of material that form in the kidneys and cause severe pain when they move. It’s not known what’s causing the increase among teenagers, but genetics and obesity are known to increase the risk.

“We know much  less about how to effectively treat children with stones because it’s a relatively new thing, so we’re actively developing projects, studies and programs to understand what is the best treatment,” said Tasian.

For now, water is the best prevention.

“It’s called Hydrate,” Emma says of a smart water bottle that’s linked to an app that tracks intake.

After having two surgeries, Emma is OK now, back to pole vaulting at school.

“Sometimes I have to sit out if my kidney cause spasms, so I have to sit out if it hurts, but other than that I’ve been able to do everything I can which is great,” she said.

CHOP is part of a study testing ways to  improve fluid intake and prevent a recurrence — things that encourage teenage patients to drink enough.

Doctors say Emma is a great role model because she’s so diligent about drinking water.

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