(Infection, Kidney; Pyelonephritis)
Pronounced: PIE-ello-nef-RYE-tisEn Español (Spanish Version)
This condition occurs when there is a bacterial infection in one or both kidneys. The kidneys remove waste (in the form of urine) from the body. They also balance the water and electrolyte content in the blood by filtering salt and water.
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Kidney infection may be caused by:
- Bladder infection that was not treated or inadequately treated (most common cause)
- Conditions that slow the flow of urine from the bladder, such as an enlarged prostate or kidney stones
- Having a cystoscopy done to examine the bladder
- Surgery of the urinary tract
- Use of a catheter to drain urine from the bladder
- Bacteria from somewhere else in the body that has gone into the kidneys (rare)
These factors increase your chance of developing a kidney infection. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
- Sex: female
- Sexual activity
- Birth defect of the urinary tract, including vesicoureteral reflux
Blockage of the urinary tract, including:
- Enlarged prostate gland
- Kidney stones
- Catheter or stent placed in the urinary tract
- Polycystic kidneys
- Sickle cell anemia
- Previous kidney transplant
- Weakened immune system
- Pain in the abdomen, lower back, side, or groin
- Frequent urination
- Urgent urination that produces only a small amount of urine
- Sensation of a full bladder even after urination
- Burning pain with urination
- Fever and chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pus and blood in the urine
- Loss of appetite
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. A kidney infection is diagnosed with urine tests. The urine is examined for:
- White blood cells
- Other abnormal elements
If the infection does not go away after treatment or if you have had several kidney infections, you may need to have other tests to see if there are problems with the kidney, ureters, and bladder. These tests include:
You will be treated with antibiotics. Be sure to take all of the medication. If the infection is not treated correctly or left untreated, the condition can lead to:
- Sepsis (infection that has spread throughout the body)
- Chronic infection
- Scarring of the kidney
- Permanent kidney damage
In some cases, you may need to stay in the hospital and receive the antibiotics through a vein in your arm.
Since kidney infection is often a complication of a bladder infection, you can prevent bladder infections by:
- Drink plenty of fluids (about 8 to 10, 8-ounce glasses per day)—Drinking cranberry juice may help prevent bladder infection.
- Practice good hygiene.
- Urinate when you need to. Don't wait.
- Take showers rather than baths.
- Wipe from the front to the back after using the toilet.
- Urinate before and after having sex. Drinking water will also help flush bacteria.
- Avoid genital deodorant sprays and douches.
National Kidney Foundation
The Kidney Foundation of Canada
Women's Health Matters
Kidney infection. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/kidney-infection/DS00593/DSECTION=symptoms. Published August 2007. Accessed July 22, 2008.
Pyelonephritis (kidney infection) in adults. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/index.htm. Published June 2007. Accessed July 22, 2008.
Last reviewed February 2008 by Miguel Antelo, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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