The medical term for kidney infection is Pyelonephritis. It is an upper urinary tract infection (UTI) that generally begins in the urethra or bladder and travels up into the kidneys. Most kidney infections start out as common bladder infections.
A kidney infection, if not treated properly and promptly, can permanently damage the kidneys or the bacteria can spread to the bloodstream and cause a life-threatening infection. Fortunately, kidney infections can almost always be cleared up with a course of antibiotics.
Some kidney infections can develop without a bladder infection and are due to a problem within the kidney itself. As an example, people with kidney stones or an abnormality of the kidney are more susceptible to kidney infections.
A kidney infection can occur at any age and is much more common in women than men. This is because women are more at risk of developing a bladder infection, which can then spread to the kidneys. This happens because a woman’s urethra is closer to the anus allowing bacteria to be easily introduced from the bowel and to travel up the urethra.
What causes a kidney infection?
Most often, the bacteria that cause a kidney infection are the same as those that cause ordinary urinary tract infections. Kidney infections can also be caused from bacteria found in bowel, on the skin or in the environment.
Bacteria enter the body from the skin around the urethra. They then travel up the urethra to the bladder. A kidney infection happens when the bacteria escape the bladder and urethra and travel up the ureters to one or both kidneys. Usually it is only one kidney that develops an infection. Sometimes, conditions that create a reduced urine flow can contribute to kidney infections
Other common ways bacteria can find its way into the bladder include:
- use of a urinary catheter for draining urine from the bladder
- surgery on the urinary tract
- diagnostic testing that uses a scope to enter the urinary tract, such as cystoscopy
- conditions that block the way the urine flows through the urinary tract, including fibroids, prostrate enlargement, kidney stones, and pregnancy
- conditions that make a person more prone to infection, such as diabetes
- a problem with the urinary tract that is present at birth.
Most kidney infections actually start with a bladder infection which can include symptoms like:Pain when the bladder fills, and throughout the pelvic area, the need to urinate frequently (sometimes every hour), the overwhelming urge to urinate, even after you’ve just done so, cloudy, bloody or smelly urine.
If the infection subsequently moves from the bladder to the kidneys, one may also experience infection symptoms like:Severe pain and tenderness in the sides, abdomen, or back, kidney pain (especially when pressed), chills, fever, nausea and vomiting, difficulty starting a stream of urine, pain or burning sensation when urinating, diarrhoea, fatigue, confusion (especially in the elderly).
The simple way to determine if there is a kidney infection is by urinalysis, which is the testing of a urine sample for bacteria, blood and pus. A culture may also be grown in a urine sample to see if bacteria or other organisms are present. Doctors can also diagnose kidney infections based on signs and symptoms, such as fever, back pain and kidney pain or tenderness when pressed.
Other tests include an abdominal ultrasound, computerised tomography scan or a type of X-ray called a voiding cystourethrogram.
Usually antibiotics are prescribed for kidney infections. The antibiotic depends on how long , the severity of the condition and the bacteria found in the urine tests.
Symptoms of a kidney infection often begin clearing up within a few days of treatment. But one should take the entire course of antibiotics to make sure the infection is completely eliminated.
It may require hospitalisation for a severe kidney infection where antibiotics will be given intravenously. Sometimes an underlying medical problem, such as a kidney abnormality can cause recurrent kidney infections.
Full recovery is expected after a treating a kidney infection with antibiotics, however Bacteria from a kidney infection getting into the bloodstreamcausing blood poisoning (septicaemia) and permanent damage to kidney tissues
As most kidney infections start with a urinary tract or bladder infection, the same preventative measures to reduce the chances of these infections should also reduces the chances of a kidney infection.
Some of the things that may help include the following:Don’t hold on to urine,go to the toilet promptly, stay well hydrated and make sure you drink plenty of fluids every day, constipation can increase the chances of a bladder or kidney infection, so treat constipation promptly, empty the bladder after having sex, women are to make sure that they wipe from front to back after going to the toilet.
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