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Kidney Infection

Kidney Infection

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.

Are You at Risk?

Bacteria, most often from an untreated bladder infection, causes kidney infections. The specific type of bacteria can vary. It 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:
    • Tumors
    • Enlarged prostate gland
    • Kidney stones
    • Birth defect of the urinary tract, including vesicoureteral reflux
  • Having a cystoscopy
  • Catheter or stent placed in the urinary tract
  • Conditions that impair bladder emptying like multiple sclerosis and spina bifida

Other medical conditions that increase your risk of infection include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Recurrent urinary tract infection
  • Diabetes
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Previous kidney transplant
  • Weakened immune system

Kidney Infection Symptoms

Symptoms of kidney infection may include:

  • 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

Diagnosis

Your doctor can diagnose a kidney infection with urine tests. 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 your kidney, ureters and bladder. Images of these structures can be taken by:

  • Kidney ultrasound
  • Abdominal CT scan
  • X-ray
  • MRI scan

Kidney Infection Treatment

If the infection is not treated correctly or is left untreated, kidney infection can lead to:

  • Sepsis 
  • Chronic infection
  • Scarring of the kidney
  • Permanent kidney damage

Antibiotics treat kidney infections. You may require hospitalization if your doctor needs to deliver the antibiotics through an IV. 

Prevent a Kidney Infection

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 can prevent a bladder infection.
  • Practice good hygiene.
  • Urinate when you need to. 
  • Take showers rather than baths.
  • For women:
    • Wipe from the front to the back after using the toilet.
    • Urinate before and after sex. 
    • Avoid genital deodorant sprays and douches.
  • For men:
    • Circumcision is associated with reduced risk of bladder infection. 

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Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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