Know the basics
What is pyelonephritis?
Pyelonephritis, also known as a kidney infection, is a specific type of urinary tract infection (UTIs) that can start in the bladder or urethra. Pyelonephritis is usually caused by bacteria that enter the urinary tract. Normally, your urine is stored in the bladder before it leaves the body. The bacteria can enter into the bladder from the urethra (tube that takes urine from the bladder to outside the body) and cause a bladder and urinary tract infection, which can then infect the kidney and lead to pyelonephritis.
Kidney infections are less common than other UTIs but they’re more serious. Recurrent infections may lead to scarring in the kidney that can cause kidney damage. This is called chronic pyelonephritis, which can potentially kidney failure.
How common is pyelonephritis?
Kidney infections usually occur in women and the elderly. People who used catheter, had diabetes or urinary tract blockage by kidney stones or swollen prostate can also kidney infection.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of pyelonephritis?
The early stage of pyelonephritis may have no symptoms. The most common symptoms are fever and back pain.
Other symptoms include: chills, frequent urination, nausea, painful urination, rib or flank pain, sudden urge to urinate and vomiting.
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?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or feel unusual in the lower abdomen, visit your doctor as soon as possible. You must seek for medical help immediately if having severe abdominal pain and bloody or burning urination. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
Know the causes
What causes pyelonephritis?
Pyelonephritis usually caused by bacteria that infect the urine and then reach the kidney by traveling up the ureter or from the bloodstream. This is where bacteria can multiply and infect the kidney. Although, there are many bacteria that could cause pyelonephritis, but E. coli bacteria is most common.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for pyelonephritis?
Certain factors may increase your risk of developing pyelonephritis:
- Gender: Women have a greater risk of kidney infection than do men. A woman’s urethra is much shorter than a man’s, so bacteria have less distance to travel from outside the body to the bladder
- Obstruction in the urinary tract. Anything that slows the flow of urine or reduces your ability to completely empty your bladder when urinating, such as a kidney stone, structural abnormalities in your urinary system or, in men, an enlarged prostate gland, can increase your risk of kidney infection.
- Weak immune system. Medical conditions that impair your immune system, such as diabetes and HIV, increase your risk of kidney infection. Certain medications, such as drugs taken to prevent rejection of transplanted organs, have a similar effect.
- Prolonged use of a urinary catheter.
- Vesicoureteral reflux.
Not having risk factors does not mean you cannot get pyelonephritis. These factors are for reference only. You should consult your doctor for more details.
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 pyelonephritis diagnosed?
The doctor can make a diagnosis from the medical history and examine the symptoms such as fever, back pain…
If a kidney infection is suspected, the doctor will order urine test and blood test to check for bacteria. Besides, ultrasonography or CT of the kidneys may help find an infection.
How is pyelonephritis treated?
Most people are admitted to the hospital and treated with antibiotics put directly into a vein. After symptoms improve, antibiotics given my mouth may be needed for 2 to 4 weeks.
Pain medicine and fluids are also given through a vein if dehydration is present. For repeated UTIs, low doses of antibiotic may be given daily for several weeks to prevent infections.
If a kidney stone caused the infection, a urologist may order shock wave lithotripsy, laser or surgery to take the stone out.
In adults, repeat urine cultures should be performed after treatment has ended to make sure the infection does not recur. If a repeat test shows infection, another 14-day course of antibiotics is prescribed; if infection recurs again, antibiotics are prescribed for 6 weeks.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage pyelonephritis?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with pyelonephritis:
- Become dehydrated. Drink plenty of fluids, but don’t drink alcohol.
- Water and cranberry juice can make some kind of bacteria can not stick to the inside of the bladder, helping you to avoid re-infection.
- Don’t hold your urine for prolonged periods. You should also urinate before and after sex to prevent bacteria from infect through sex
- Have kidney stones removed if you have. You must also periodically take the prostate test and prostate treatment if it swollen.
- Don’t stop taking your medicine or change your dosage because you feel better unless your doctor tells you to
- Don’t take any herbal preparation that you may find at health food stores. Some may cause kidney disease.
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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