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Kidney Infection

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The term kidney infection is a generic term used to describe infection of the kidney of several types; bacteria, fungal, and viral.

A kidney infection requires prompt medical attention. If not treated properly, it can permanently damage your kidneys or spread to your bloodstream and cause a life-threatening infection. Kidney infection treatment usually includes antibiotics and sometimes requires hospitalization.

Causes

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Kidney infections typically occur when bacteria enter your urinary tract through the urethra and begin to multiply. Bacteria from an infection elsewhere in your body also can spread through your bloodstream to your kidneys. Rarely, an infection can occur when a foreign body enters the body such as an artificial joint or heart valve.

These infections of bacteria can be caused by:

  • Vesicoureteral reflux (VUR) refers to a condition in which urine flows from the bladder, back up the ureter, and back into the kidneys.
  • A bladder infection (lower urinary tract infection).

Symptoms

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Symptoms of a kidney infection could include any or several of the following:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Frequent Urination
  • Chills
  • Blood in Urine
  • Flank Pain
  • Painful Urination
  • Urinary Urgency
  • Confusion
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Odor of Urine

Diagnosis

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To diagnose a kidney infection, your doctor will review your symptoms and review your medical history, checking in particular for a history of urinary tract infection (UTI). During physical examination, the physician may gently press the kidney area to see how tender or painful it is. Other symptoms also are considered; for example, fever and back pain are more likely to indicate a kidney infection than a lower urinary tract infection.

Laboratory tests include urine samples to detect blood, bacteria or white blood cells. Blood tests may be performed to check for systemic infection.

In some cases, imaging tests (e.g., x-rays, CT scan) are used to check for enlarged or obstructed kidneys or other problems that may affect kidney function.

Treatment

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Kidney infections are treated using antibiotics to destroy the bacteria. The type of antibiotic used varies, depending on the type of bacteria that is causing the infection.

The usual course of treatment is antibiotics for one to two weeks. Generally the symptoms that are caused by minor infections can begin to get better after a couple of days, but more severe infections frequently take longer.

While recovering from kidney infections, applying heat to the affected area and/or taking pain relievers such as Tylenol can help alleviate the symptoms. Physicians do not recommend aspirin. Drinking plenty of fluids helps remove bacteria from the urinary tract.

Other Treatment

If the kidney infection recurs, or does not respond to antibiotics, other diagnostic tests may be required and your physicians may check for urinary tract abnormalities. Intravenous antibiotics or surgery may be required. If the kidney infection is severe, this could necessitate prolonged hospital stays and antibiotics for up to six weeks.