Signs and symptoms of kidney infection, how to prevent and what to do about this health condition.
These are the topics that we are going to discuss in this article.
Kidney infection (pyelonephritis) is a type of urinary tract infection (UTI) that generally begins in your urethra or bladder and travels to one or both of your kidneys.
A kidney infection requires prompt medical attention. If not treated properly, a kidney infection can permanently damage your kidneys or the bacteria can spread to your bloodstream and cause a life-threatening infection.
Kidney infection treatment, which usually includes antibiotics, might require hospitalization.
What Causes a Kidney Infection?
Usually, it starts with a bladder infection that spreads to the kidney. Usually, bacteria called E. coli cause the infection, to begin with. Other bacteria can also cause kidney infections.
It’s rare, but you can also have an infection that gets in through your skin, makes its way into your blood, then travels to your kidney. You can get an infection after kidney surgery, too, but that’s very uncommon.
Factors that increase your risk of a kidney infection include:
- Being female. The urethra is shorter in women than it is in men, which makes it easier for bacteria to travel from outside the body to the bladder. The nearness of the urethra to the vagina and anus also creates more opportunities for bacteria to enter the bladder. Once in the bladder, an infection can spread to the kidneys. Pregnant women are at even higher risk of a kidney infection.
- Having a urinary tract blockage. This includes anything that slows the flow of urine or reduces your ability to empty your bladder when urinating — including a kidney stone, something abnormal in your urinary tract’s structure or, in men, an enlarged prostate gland.
- Having a weakened immune system. This includes medical conditions that impair your immune systems, such as diabetes and HIV. Certain medications, such as drugs taken to prevent rejection of transplanted organs, have a similar effect.
- Having damage to nerves around the bladder. Nerve or spinal cord damage can block the sensations of a bladder infection so that you’re unaware when it’s advancing to a kidney infection.
- Using a urinary catheter for a time. Urinary catheters are tubes used to drain urine from the bladder. You might have a catheter placed during and after some surgical procedures and diagnostic tests. You might use one continuously if you’re confined to a bed.
- Having a condition that causes urine to flow the wrong way. In vesicoureteral reflux, small amounts of urine flow from your bladder back up into your ureters and kidneys. People with this condition are at higher risk of kidney infection during childhood and adulthood.
You may have:
- Blood or pus in your pee
- Fever and chills
- No desire to eat
- Pain in your lower back, side, or groin
- Throwing up or upset stomach
- Weakness or feeling very tired (fatigue)
You may also have some of the same signs and symptoms as with a bladder infection, such as:
- Burning or pain when you pee
- Constant urge to pee, even though you just went
- Cloudy or bad-smelling urine
- Pain in your lower belly
- Peeing much more often than normal
Call your doctor if you have these symptoms and think it may be a kidney infection, especially if you have a UTI and you’re not getting any better. If you don’t get treated, it could lead to kidney damage or blood infection, which is life-threatening. Also, if you’re pregnant, a kidney infection can affect your baby.
How Is It Diagnosed?
After asking about your signs and symptoms, your doctor will likely start with a:
- Urine analysis to check for blood, pus, and bacteria in your pee
- Urine culture to see what kind of bacteria you have
- Your doctor may also use these tests:
Ultrasound or CT: to check for a blockage in your urinary tract. These are usually done if treatment doesn’t help within the first 3 days.
Voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG): a type of X-ray to look for problems in your urethra and bladder. These are often used in children who have VUR.
Digital rectal exam (for men): (Your doctor inserts a lubed finger into your anus to check for a swollen prostate.)
Dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) scintigraphy: a type of imaging that uses a radioactive material to better see kidney infection and damage
Usually, the first step is antibiotics, which you may need for a week or two. Your symptoms should improve within a few days, but make sure to finish the medicine as your doctor tells you to.
For severe infections, you’ll need to stay in the hospital and get antibiotics through an IV.
If you get kidney infections that keep coming back, you may have a structural problem in your urinary tract. For that, your doctor may refer you to a specialist, such as a urologist, who treats urinary tract problems. These types of issues often need surgery.
Reduce the risk of kidney infection by taking steps to prevent urinary tract infections. Women, in particular, may reduce their risk of urinary tract infections if they:
- Drink fluids, especially water. Fluids can help remove bacteria from your body when you urinate.
- Urinate as soon as you need to. Avoid delaying urination when you feel the urge to urinate.
- Empty the bladder after intercourse. Urinating as soon as possible after intercourse helps clear bacteria from the urethra, reducing your risk of infection.
- Wipe carefully. Wiping from front to back after urinating and after a bowel movement helps prevent bacteria from spreading to the urethra.
- Avoid using feminine products in the genital area. Using products such as deodorant sprays in your genital area or douches can be irritating.
Conclusion: If you have these signs and symptoms of kidney infection immediately ask for a medical opinion.By taking steps to prevent urinary infections you are reducing the risk of kidney infection.