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Kidney Infection - How To Understand It?

Written and reviewed by
Dr. Prashant C Dheerendra 89% (35 ratings)
MBBS, MD - Internal Medicine, DM - Nephrology
Nephrologist, Bangalore  •  16 years experience
Kidney Infection - How To Understand It?

In most cases, a urinary tract infection affects only the urethra and bladder("Lower" UTI) but in some cases, it can affect the ureters and kidneys("Upper UTI) as well. This is known as Pyelonephritis or a kidney infection. If this infection spreads to the bloodstream, it could cause serious health problems. Since women have a shorter urethra than men, they are more susceptible to kidney infections. This is because the bacteria typically enter the body through the urethra. 

The most common symptoms of this type of kidney infection are: 

  1. Frequent urges to urinate 
  2. Painful urination 
  3. Backaches 
  4. Fever or chills 
  5. Nausea and vomiting 
  6. Presence of blood in the urine 
  7. Foul smell while urinating 
  8. Cloudy urine 

Pyelonephritis is caused by the same bacteria that cause lower urinary tract infections. In some cases, it may also be caused by E. coli or klebsiella bacteria found in stool. In rare instances, bacteria from the skin can also trigger this disease. The obstruction of urine flow or reduced urine flow can increase a person’s risk of suffering from this disease. Some of the causes for this obstruction include: 

  • Presence of stones in the bladder, ureters or kidney 
  • Tumours or cancerous masses in the abdominal or pelvic area 
  • Benign prostatic hypertrophy 

Kidney stones can also increase the risk of this disease by proving the bacteria with a place to multiply. Lastly, people suffering from diabetes or other conditions that impair the immune system are more susceptible to kidney infections. 

A thorough physical examination along with a urine analysis and urine culture are the first steps to confirming a diagnosis. Some doctors may also ask for a CT scan, blood cultures and an ultrasound of the kidneys. In an ultrasound, your doctor will also look for kidney stones or birth defects that could increase your risk of this disease. 

A 7-day course of antibiotics is enough to cure this disease in most cases. As long as the patient can take oral medication hospitalisation is not required but if the patient is nauseous and constantly vomits, hospitalisation may be suggested as the medicine will need to be given intravenously. In rare, extreme cases, the infection may cause the development of an abscess.

Abscesses cannot be cured by antibiotics and must be drained. Hence, kidney infections can be serious and one needs to take proper care if the symptoms are present. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a Nephrologist.

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