What is kidney infection?


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Know the basics

What is kidney infection?

Kidney infection, also known as pyelonephritis, is the condition in which you have a specific type of urinary tract infection. This infection first locates at your lower urinary system (urethra or bladder) then moves up toward your upper system (kidneys and ureters). Kidney infection can potentially extend to the blood stream leading to fatal infection.

How common is kidney infection?

Epidemiology data of pyelonephritis are limited. A population based study in US suggested that annually rate of about 17 cases per 10,000 females and 4 cases per 10000 males. Kidney infection shows a seasonal variation of more frequent during July and August for female and during August and September among male. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of kidney infection?

Kidney infection might start with typical infection, but it develops very quickly and more severely once bacteria reaches to upper urinary track. The common signs and symptoms of kidney infection are:

  • Fever;
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Back, side (flank), groin or abdominal pain;
  • Frequent urination, strong and persistent urge to urinate;
  • Felling burning or pain when urinating;
  • Pus or blood in your urine;
  • Bad-smell urine;

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • If you are being treated for any urinary infection but your signs and symptoms aren’t improving;
  • If you experience one or more typical kidney infection symptoms.

Know the causes

What causes kidney infection?

Kidney infection typically is caused by bacteria entering your urinary tract through ureter (the tube that is responsible for carrying urine from your body), then it begins to multiply. The most common bacteria are usually found in stool (E. coli or klebsiella), while skin or other environmental bacteria are less likely to cause pyelonephritis.

The bloodstream to your kidneys can also contribute to the disease by bring the bacteria from an infection elsewhere in your body and then spread it to your kidneys. Kidney infection is unusual through this route, but it happens sometimes.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for kidney infection?

There are many risk factors for kidney infection, such as:

  • Female anatomy. Because a woman’s urethra is much shorter than a man’s, bacteria have to travel less from outside the body to the bladder. Therefore, woman is at higher risk of the disease than man;
  • Obstruction in the urinary tract. When the flow of urine slows or the ability to completely empty your bladder is reduced, bacteria can more easily move up to ureter, which increase your risk of kidney infection;
  • Kidney stones;
  • Weakened immune system, such as diabetes or HIV;
  • Damage to nerves around the bladder;
  • Prolonged use of a urinary catheter;
  • A condition that causes urine to flow the wrong way.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is kidney infection diagnosed?

Based on general appearance, vital signs and symptoms, such as fever and back pain, your doctor can give you  a very initial diagnosis. You maybe need to answer some questions, provide a urine sample to test for bacteria, blood or pus is in your urine. A lab test that checks for bacteria or other organisms in your blood can be necessary in some cases as well.

Imaging tests might include an ultrasound, computerized tomography scan or a type of X-ray to provide detailed images of kidney and related organs.

How is kidney infection treated?

The first treatment for you with kidney infection is using antibiotics. What type of medications you have to take and the time you need to follow depends on your personal condition of kidney infection, general health and the bacteria found in your urine tests. It is supposed that signs and symptoms of a kidney infection can gradually disappear within a few days of treatment. But you may need to continue antibiotics for a week or longer. Remember to take the entire course of antibiotics prescribed by your doctor.

If you have a severe kidney infection, you may be asked to be admitted to the hospital. You can receive antibiotics through a vein in your arm.

If kidney infection reoccurs, you may need to meet a kidney specialist to find underlying medical problems.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage kidney infection?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with kidney infection:

  • Apply heat. Place a heating pad on your abdomen, back or side to reduce feelings of pressure or pain;
  • Use pain medicine;
  • Stay hydrated. You need to provide yourself enough fluids wto help flush bacteria from your urinary tract. But make sure that you don’t drink coffee.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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