Kidney Infection Symptoms and Treatment

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Kidney Infection (Pyelonephritis)

Kidney Infection Symptoms and TreatmentPyelonephritis is an infection in the kidneys. It is usually treated with antibiotics and painkillers. But, it could sometimes become a serious illness. Complications include severe kidney damage or a spread of the infection in the body (sepsis). Kidney infection symptoms and treatment are as follows.


Causes of a kidney infection

Usually, kidney infections are due to a bladder infection. Also known as cystitis. This is when the bacteria travel up the ureter from the bladder to the kidney. But, not all kidney infections are due to bladder infections. For instance, kidney stones or other abnormalities of the kidney can also be a cause.
Further, this condition usually impacts only one kidney. It can occur at any age. It is much more common in women since bladder infections are more common in women. This is due to the closeness of the urethra to the anus. As a result, it is easier for the bacteria to get from the bowels to the bladder in women. Also, children, elderly people, and pregnant women are more likely to get this disease.

What are the symptoms of a kidney infection?

Symptoms of a kidney infection progress over a few hours and may include:
  • Pain in a loin or flank
  • High fever along with shivering
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Passing blood in the urine
  • Pain while urinating
  • Frequent urination
All symptoms may not appear. Some people with this disease may just feel unwell or confused. This is why a urine test is often necessary to confirm the cause of the illness. 

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Do I need any tests?

The first and simplest test done is a dipstick urine test. This tests your urine for bacteria. Presence of bacteria suggests a kidney infection. If the sample shows bacteria, it will be sent for further review. This is to determine the type of bacteria that is causing the infection. And allows the doctor to prescribe the correct antibiotic.
A urine test may be the only test required. But, an ultrasound scan may also be needed in some cases. Cases such as if you suffer from kidney stones for instance. It may also be needed if it’s thought that you might have some other kidney abnormality as well.

What is the treatment for a kidney infection?

  • If there is suspicion for a kidney infection, immediate treatment is needed. Treatment includes a course of antibiotics. But, only some bacteria are resistant to certain antibiotics. As a result, there may be a change in medicine. This is based on the urine test. Usually, Ciprofloxacin, co-amoxiclav or trimethoprim are used. They are taken for 7-14 days.
  • Paracetamol is for pain relief and for reducing fever. For severe pain, stronger painkillers may be needed. But, NSAIDs such as ibuprofen are not good for kidney infections. They could hamper the working of the kidneys.
  • Consume lots of fluids to prevent dehydration.
In most cases, the treatment can be at home. Contact a doctor if the symptoms do not improve after 24 hours. You may need hospital admission if:
  • You are unable to take in any fluids due to extreme vomiting
  • The infection is severe
  • Symptoms do not settle within 24 hours after starting antibiotics
  • You are pregnant
  • You have other medical complications. Such as an underlying kidney problem or diabetes

What are the possible complications?

Most people make a complete recovery with just antibiotics. But, there can be some problems in some cases. For instance these include:
  • Sepsis due to the bacteria entering the bloodstream.
  • Pregnant women could experience an early birth. Or have babies with lower birth weight.
  • Kidney abscess.
  • Permanent damage to kidney tissues.
Although, these problems are more likely if the infection is severe. In addition, they’re more likely in people who had some problems with their kidneys. People who have their immune system compromised are also prone to issues. Compromised immune systems are due to chemotherapy or AIDS. Pregnant women, elderly people and those with poorly controlled diabetes could also be at risk of developing complications.
A rare complication is emphysematous pyelonephritis. This is when the destruction of the kidney is rapid. This condition seems to affect people who have poorly controlled diabetes.

Prevention of kidney infection

  • Treat constipation.
  • Seek medical advice for kidney stones.
  • For infection during pregnancy, ensure urine testings.

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