What is a Kidney Infection?
Kidney infection is a type of urinary tract infection (UTI) that generally occurs in your urethra or bladder and spreads to one or both kidneys. This disease is also known as pyelonephritis.
The cause of infection is usually due to cystitis, which is a common bladder infection. Most people with cystitis will not develop it, but sometimes bacteria can travel from the bladder to one or both kidneys.
Kidney infection requires immediate medical attention. If not treated properly, it can permanently damage your kidneys or the bacteria can spread to the bloodstream and cause life-threatening infections.
Treatment for kidney infections usually includes antibiotics or may require hospitalization. Consult with a urologist or kidney specialist doctor through Smarter Health to determine the right treatment for your condition.
Causes of Kidney Infection
Bacteria that enter your urinary tract through the tube that carries urine from your body (urethra) can multiply and spread to your kidneys. This is the most common cause of kidney infections.
Bacteria from an infection elsewhere in your body can also spread through your bloodstream to your kidneys. Although it is rare to develop a kidney infection, it may still occur to you. For example, if you have an artificial joint or heart valve that becomes infected. It is also rare to occur after kidney surgery.
Risks of Kidney Infection
Possible factors that increase the risk of kidney infection may include:
- Being female. Women’s urethra is shorter than men’s – making it easier for bacteria to move from outside the body to the bladder.
- Blockage in the urinary tract. This includes anything that slows down the urine flow or reduces the ability to empty the bladder when urinating.
- Weak immune system. This includes medical conditions that damage your immune systems, such as diabetes and HIV.
- Nerve damage around the bladder. Damage to the nerves or spinal cord can block the sensation of bladder infections (UTIs) so you may not notice it when the UTI develops into a kidney infection
- Use of urine catheter for a while. A urine catheter is a tube used to drain urine from the bladder.
- Condition that causes incorrect urine flow. People with this condition are at higher risk of developing kidney infections during childhood and adulthood.
When to See a Doctor for Kidney Infection
Talk to your urologist to confirm if you have a kidney infection. You may be asked to provide a urine sample to test for bacteria, blood, or pus in the urine.
Your doctor may also take a blood sample for laboratory tests that check for bacteria or other organisms in your blood.
Other tests may include ultrasound, CT scan or a type of X-ray called a cystourethrogram. Cystourethrogram involves injecting a contrast dye for an X-ray of your bladder when it is full and when urinating.
Symptoms of Kidney Infection
Watch out for signs and symptoms of kidney infection, including:
- Stomach upsets
- Nausea and vomiting
- Frequent urination
- Foul-smelling or cloudy urine
- Back, pelvic or groin pain
- Burning or painful sensation when urinating
- A strong and persistent urge to urinate
- Pus or blood in your urine (hematuria)
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms related to kidney infections.
Severe kidney infections can lead to life-threatening complications. Seek immediate medical care if you experience symptoms of a kidney infection along with bloody urine or nausea and vomiting.
Treatment for Kidney Infection
Below are some kidney infection treatments your doctor may recommend:
Antibiotics for Kidney Infections
Antibiotics are the first line of treatment for kidney infections. The type of medication you use and for how long you use it depends on your health and the bacteria found in your urine test.
In general, signs and symptoms of kidney infection gradually disappear within a few days of treatment. However, you may need to continue taking antibiotics for a week or more. Take all the antibiotics your doctor recommends, even after you feel better.
Your doctor may recommend a urine culture test to make sure you have no infections left. If the infection is still there, you will need to take other antibiotics as recommended by your doctor.
Hospitalization for Severe Kidney Infections
If you have a severe kidney infection, your doctor may admit you to the hospital. Possible treatment given may include antibiotics and fluids that you receive through a vein in your arm (intravenously).
The length of your hospital stay depends on the severity of infection.
Treatment for Recurrent Kidney Infections
An underlying medical problem such as a damaged urinary tract can put you at risk for recurring kidney infections. In such cases, you may be referred to a kidney specialist (nephrologist) or urologist for further evaluation.
Furthermore, you may need surgery to correct a structural abnormality.
Treatment Cost for Kidney Infection
Treatment cost for kidney infection may vary greatly. Your doctor may ask you about your symptoms, perform a physical exam, or urine tests to diagnose it. If you are diagnosed with an infected kidney, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics first. However, if you have a severe case of infection, your doctor might admit you to the hospital.
To calculate the estimated treatment cost for kidney infection at home and abroad, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Kidney Infection
Reduce the risk of kidney infection by taking urinary tract infection (UTI) preventive measures, such as:
- Drink plenty of fluids – as fluids can help remove bacteria from the body when urinating.
- Urinate as soon as possible. Avoid delaying urination when you feel the urge to urinate.
- Avoid using feminine products in the genital area. Using products such as deodorant sprays on the genital area or douches can cause irritation.
- Wipe the vagina carefully – from front to back after urinating and after a bowel movement to help prevent bacteria from spreading to the urethra.
- Empty the bladder after intercourse. Urinating as soon as possible after sexual intercourse helps clear bacteria from the urethra and reduces the risk of infection.
Home Remedies for Kidney Infection
To reduce discomfort while you recover from a kidney infection, you may be advised to:
- Place a heating pad on your stomach, back, or side for relieving pain.
- Take pain relievers. To treat fever or discomfort, take a non-aspirin pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Motrin IB, Advil, others).
- Make sure you stay hydrated by drinking fluids to help flush bacteria from the urinary tract. Avoid drinking coffee and alcohol until your infection is completely healed. Alcoholic beverages may worsen the urge to urinate, which may in turn worsen your condition.
Make an appointment with a urologist or kidney specialist doctor at home and abroad through Smarter Health if you have symptoms of a kidney infection.
Smarter Health’s teleconsultation services allow you to get medical treatment whenever you need it without leaving the house – this minimizing the spread of COVID-19.