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Don't Ignore the Signs: Understanding Kidney Infection

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Don't Ignore the Signs: Understanding Kidney Infection

Renal Sciences | Posted on 05/03/2024 by Dr. Devendra K. Sharma


Kidney infections, also called pyelonephritis, is a common but sometimes misidentified condition affecting millions of people across the globe. They often develop from untreated urinary tract infections caused by bacterial infiltration into the kidneys. Kidney infections can affect anyone, however, as per studies, it is found that women are more vulnerable than men; almost 10% of females experience kidney infection at some point in their lives. Some factors increasing the susceptibility to kidney infections are urinary blockages, compromised immune systems, and particular medical procedures. Immediate diagnosis and treatment are significant to prevent serious consequences like renal damage or systemic infections. The fact that they are common highlights how important it is to treat urinary health.

If you are experiencing kidney infections like lower back pain, fever, or chills, book your appointment with one of the best kidney specialists in Jaipur at CK Birla Hospitals.

This writing guide will involve a comprehensive discussion on kidney infection and everything such as symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options. However, please note that this is for informational purposes and doesn’t replace the relevance of a doctor’s consultation. 

What is a kidney infection? 

A kidney infection is considered to be among the serious conditions characterized by bacterial intrusion into the kidneys. Kidney infections often stem from untreated urinary tract infections (UTIs) causing symptoms like fever, back pain, nausea, and frequent urination. The primary contributing factors of kidney infection are urinary obstructions, jeopardized immune systems, and certain medical procedures. Timely diagnosis and treatment play an important role in averting complications such as kidney damage or bloodstream infections. Comprehending kidney infection involves identifying its symptoms and dealing with underlying causes for effective management and recovery.

What are the symptoms of kidney infection?

Determining the symptoms of kidney infection is vital for early diagnosis and treatment, as untreated infections cause serious complications like kidney damage or bloodstream infections.

  • Fever and chills
  • Frequent urination
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Confusion 
  • Rapid breathing 
  • Shock
  • Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
  • Abdominal pain or pressure
  • The presence of blood in the urine
  • Back or side pain
  • Nausea and vomiting

Symptoms of kidney infection in women differ depending on individual anatomy. However, common symptoms involve:

  • Abdominal pain or pressure
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Blood in the urine (hematuria)
  • Painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea) in some cases

What are the causes of kidney infection? 

Several causes lead to kidney infection such as:

  • Bacterial Invasion: Kidney infections occur from bacteria like E. coli, proteus mirabilis, enterobacter, and staphylococcus entering the urinary tract and transmitting to the kidneys.
  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): If UTIs are left untreated, they advance to kidney infections if bacteria travel up the urinary tract to the kidneys.
  • Anatomical Factors: Females are vulnerable because of a shorter urethra, easing bacterial entry. Anatomical blockages in the urinary tract can also increase vulnerability to kidney infections.
  • Weakened Immune System: Conditions such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, or medications suppressing the immune system make people susceptible to kidney infections.
  • Urinary Tract Blockages: Kidney stones or an enlarged prostate obstruct urine flow, increasing the infection risk, etc.
  • Medical Procedures: Insertion of urinary catheters or other medical devices leads to the presence of bacteria in the urinary tract causing infection when hygiene steps are not followed.
  • Sexual Activity: Sexual intercourse also makes people vulnerable especially females in the urinary tract to kidney infections, if the right hygiene practices are not followed.
  • Pregnancy: Physiological changes during pregnancy lead to urinary tract function, increasing vulnerability to kidney infections.

How is kidney infection diagnosed? 

Kidney infections are diagnosed by involving physical examination, diagnostic testing, and an assessment of medical history. Healthcare experts initiate the diagnosis by assessing symptoms such as fever, back pain, and urine problems. To confirm the diagnosis, they perform a physical examination to identify the symptoms like kidney-related pain. Urinalysis is involved in identifying infection symptoms by taking the urine culture to pinpoint the specific bacteria, and imaging tests like CT or ultrasound to view the kidneys and urinary system. Blood tests are also involved in certain cases to evaluate kidney health and overall well-being. 

What are the options for kidney infection treatment? 

Treatment for kidney infection is given to the patient depending on their symptoms and risk factors. Here are the treatment options usually involved in treating kidney infections:

  • Antibiotics: This treatment option is recommended to kill the bacteria causing the infection. The patient is asked to complete the antibiotics course as directed. A combination of antibiotics is involved to treat the condition such as Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (TMP-SMX), amoxicillin or augmentin, ceftriaxone or cephalexin, and ciprofloxacin or levofloxacin
  • Pain Medication: Over-the-counter drugs or pain relievers are prescribed to reduce discomfort, like back pain or pain while urinating.
  • Hydration: Doctors recommend hydration as drinking plenty of fluids aids in flushing bacteria from the urinary tract and promoting healing. 
  • Hospitalization: This is required in severe cases or when complications arise for intravenous antibiotics and monitoring the condition closely.
  • Surgery: In rare cases, there is a need for surgery to eliminate blockages or treat underlying conditions contributing to the kidney infection.

What are the prevention tips for kidney infection?

If you want to ensure the prevention of a kidney infection, then make sure to follow these steps:

  • Ensure drinking plenty of water aids in flushing bacteria from the urinary tract.
  • Make sure to maintain proper genital and anal hygiene to avert the spread of bacteria.
  • Don’t hold urine for extended periods, as this can make you vulnerable to kidney infection.
  • You should ensure wiping from front to back to avert bacteria so that it doesn’t enter the urinary tract.
  • After sexual intercourse urination is important to flush bacteria away from the urinary tract.
  • Restrict consumption of irritants such as caffeine and alcohol to reduce the vulnerability to infection.
  • Always ensure using condoms to minimize the risk of STIs and kidney infections.
  • Ensure maintaining conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure as they are the contributing factors of kidney infections.
  • Follow adequate hygiene protocols if you need a urinary catheter and avoid prolonged use if possible.


Kidney infections are found to be among the serious conditions that require immediate diagnosis and treatment to avert complications. Patients can take proactive steps to protect their urinary tract health by identifying the symptoms, understanding the underlying causes, and involving preventive measures. One must seek medical attention at the first sign of infection, maintain proper hygiene practices, stay hydrated, and manage underlying health conditions to mitigate the risk of kidney infections and promote overall well-being.