Kidney infection: Symptoms, causes, and treatment

Kidney infection, also known as renal infection or pyelonephritis, is a common type of urinary tract infection.

Bacteria often infect the bladder or the urethra and spreads to one of the kidneys.

Women are most commonly affected by kidney infection, as are pregnant mothers, children under 2 years of age, and individuals aged over 60 years.

Kidney infections affect an estimated 3 to 4 men in every 10,000 and 15 to 17 in every 10,000 women.

This article will explain the symptoms of a kidney infection and how it is diagnosed, prevented, and treated.

Fast facts on kidney infections

Here are some key points about kidney infections. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

One of the kidney’s major roles is to remove toxins from the body.

Symptoms of kidney infections include diarrhea, nausea, and back pain.

Sometimes, a bladder infection may occur at the same time as a kidney infection.

In most cases, oral antibiotics can successfully treat kidney infections.

Symptoms

[Cross section of kidney]
Women, the young, and the elderly are most at risk of kidney infections.

When someone has a kidney infection, it normally develops quite fast – in a day or a few hours.
Symptoms of a kidney infection include:

diarrhea

nausea

uncontrollable shivering

vomiting

back pain

pain in the groin

pain in the side

often symptoms are worse when the patient urinates

If there is also a corresponding bladder infection, the individual may experience:

bloody urine

cloudy urine

pain or difficulty while urinating, often described as a burning or stinging sensation

foul-smelling urine

frequent urination

inability to urinate fully

pain in the lower abdomen

[Urinary system]
Diagram of the urinary system.

The urinary tract consists of:

The kidneys: The majority of humans have two kidneys, one on either side of the abdomen. Kidneys clear poisonous substances from the blood.

The ureters: Urine passes from the kidneys to the bladder through tubes called ureters. Each kidney has one ureter connecting it to the bladder.

The bladder: This is a hollow organ in the lower abdomen that stores urine.

The urethra: A tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body. In males, the urethra travels down the middle of the penis to an opening at the end. In females, the urethra runs from the bladder to just above the vaginal opening. The urethra in females is shorter than in males.

Treatment

Kidney infection can either be treated at home or in a hospital; this will depend on several factors, including the severity of symptoms and the patient’s general state of health.

Treatment at home consists of taking prescribed oral antibiotics. The patient should start to feel better after a few days.

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