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Kidney infection (Pyelonephritis)

A urinary tract infection usually starts in the bladder or urethra and ascends to one or both kidneys. Treatment of kidney infections involves the use of effective antibiotics.

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Kidney infection (Pyelonephritis)

Kidney Infection or Pyelonephritis is a urinary tract infection that usually starts in the bladder or urethra and ascends to one or both kidneys. Without effective treatment, the infection can permanently damage the kidneys or create a life-threatening bloodstream infection. Treatment of kidney infections involves the use of effective antibiotics.


Symptoms

Kidney infection may cause the following signs and symptoms:

  • Pain when urinating
  • Pus or blood in the urine (Hematuria)
  • Intense and persistent urge to urinate
  • Smelling, cloudy urine
  • Frequent or urgent urination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Back or flank Pain
  • Fever and chills


When to see a doctor

A severe kidney infection might result in fatal consequences. Seek medical assistance if you experience kidney infection symptoms that include bloody urine, nausea, and vomiting.

Causes

The most common cause of kidney infections is bacteria, commonly entering your urinary system through the tube that transports urine from the bladder, proliferates in the bladder, and moves to your kidneys. E. coli is the most common bacteria. Moreover, any severe bloodstream infection from other body parts could lead to kidney infection.

Risk Factors

  • Being female: The urethra is shorter in women than in males, making it easier for germs to enter the bladder. Additionally, the proximity of the urethra to the vagina and anus increases the likelihood that bacteria may enter the bladder. Once an infection has reached the bladder, it can travel to the kidneys. Furthermore, pregnant women are particularly prone to kidney infections.
  • An obstructed urinary tract: This includes anything that negatively affects your capacity to empty your bladder when urinating, or kidney stone obstructing a ureter will increase the risk of infection.
  • A weakened immune system: This includes diseases that suppress the immune system, such as diabetes and HIV.
  • Having nerve dysfunction around the bladder. Damage to the nerves or spinal cord blocks the sensation of a bladder infection, allowing progression to a kidney infection.
  • Vesicoureteral reflux. A condition in which urine flows backward in the wrong direction from the bladder into the ureters and kidneys. Those with this condition are more susceptible to developing a kidney infection during childhood.


Complications

  • Kidney scarring: This may result in chronic kidney disease, hypertension, and kidney failure.
  • Blood poisoning (septicemia): If no immediate treatment is given, it can lead to septic shock. A kidney infection can result in various bacteria spreading via the bloodstream.
  • Obstetric problems. Women who acquire a kidney infection during pregnancy may be more likely to have infants with low birth weight.


Prevention

Reduce your likelihood of developing a kidney infection by preventing lower urinary tract infections. These suggestions, especially for women, can lower their risk of urinary tract infections by:

  • Drink more fluids, particularly water. When you urinate, bacteria are expelled with the urine from the body.
  • Urinate whenever necessary. Avoid delaying urinating when the impulse to do so arises.
  • Empty the bladder after sexual activity. Eliminating germs from the urethra by urinating as soon as possible after sexual activity reduces your chance of infection.
  • Wipe with care. After urinating, wiping from front to back prevents germs from migrating to the urethra.


Diagnosis

To confirming a kidney infection, testing for bacteria, blood, or pus in a urine sample might be requested. The doctor may also take a blood sample to culture for bacteria or other organisms inside your blood. Other examinations may include an ultrasound, CT scan, or X-ray.

Treatment

  • Antibiotics for urinary tract infections: Kidney infections are treated with antibiotics. The type of medication and the duration required depend on your health and the bacteria in the urine. The signs and symptoms of a kidney infection typically begin to subside within a few days of treatment. However, you need to continue antibiotic for a week or more and should take the whole course of the prescribed antibiotics.
  • Hospitalization for serious kidney infections. Depending on the severity of your kidney infection, you may need hospitalization. Treatment includes antibiotics and fluids injected through an arm vein. The duration of your hospital stay will depend on the severity of your disease.
  • Treatment for chronic kidney infections
    An underlying medical condition, such as a structurally abnormal urinary system, might lead to recurring kidney infections.


Lifestyle and home remedies

To alleviate pain when recovering from a kidney infection, you could:

  • Apply a heating pad to your belly, back, or side to alleviate discomfort.
  • Take pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce discomfort.
  • Stay hydrated by consuming fluids to help eliminate bacteria from the urinary system.


Preparing for the doctor’s appointment

If your physician determines that your infection has progressed to your kidneys, he or she may send you to a professional who specializes in urinary tract disorders (a nephrologist or urologist).

Article by

Published: 19 Oct 2022

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