Kidney infections may occur in one or both kidneys.
The kidneys remove waste from the body through urine. They also balance the water and mineral content in the blood. An infection may prevent them from working properly.
Anatomy of the Kidney
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Kidney infections are caused by a bacteria. The specific type of bacteria can vary. The bacteria most often comes from an untreated
Bacteria may be introduced to the urinary tract and ultimately the kidneys by: Sexual activity
Conditions that block or slow the flow of urine such as:
TumorsEnlarged prostate glandKidney stonesBirth defect of the urinary tract, including vesicoureteral reflux
—a test to examine the bladder
Catheter or stent placed in the urinary tractConditions that impair bladder emptying like multiple sclerosis and spina bifida
Other medical conditions that increase your risk of infection include: PregnancyRecurrent urinary tract infection
DiabetesPolycystic kidneysSickle cell anemia
kidney transplantWeakened immune system
Symptoms of kidney infection may include: Pain in the abdomen, lower back, side, or groinFrequent urinationUrgent urination that produces only a small amount of urineSensation of a full bladder—even after urinationBurning pain with urinationFever and chillsNausea and vomitingPus and blood in the urineLoss of appetite
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. A kidney infection is diagnosed with
. The urine is examined for:
Bacteria or other signs of infectionBloodProteinOther abnormal elements
You may need further tests if the infection does not go away with treatment or if you have had several infections. These tests will be done to see if there are problems with the kidney, ureters, and bladder. Images of these structures can be taken by: Kidney ultrasoundAbdominal CT scanX-rayMRI
If the infection is not treated correctly or is left untreated, kidney infection can lead to: Sepsis (infection that has spread throughout the body)Chronic infectionScarring of the kidneyPermanent kidney damage
You will be treated with antibiotics. Be sure to take all of the medication. Antibiotics may need to be delivered through an IV. This may require a stay in the hospital.
If you are diagnosed with a kidney infection, follow your doctor's
Surgical correction of vesicoureteral reflux in children may reduce risk for pyelonephritis.
Since kidney infection is often a complication of a bladder infection. You can prevent bladder infections if you: Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Cranberry juice is a good choice to prevent bladder infection.Practice good hygiene.Urinate when you need to. Don't wait.Take showers rather than baths.
For women: Wipe from the front to the back after using the toilet.Urinate before and after sex. Drink water to help flush bacteria.Avoid genital deodorant sprays and douches.For men: Circumcision associated with reduced risk of bladder infection.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Adrienne Carmack, 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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