At some point or another most people experience a kidney infection at least once in their lifetime. The medical term for a kidney infection is pyelonephritis. A kidney infection is a type of UTI, or urinary tract infection, that usually starts in the bladder or urethra and moves to the kidneys.
In most cases kidney infections are caused when any type of infection enters the urethra. In the warm, moist environment of your urinary tract, the bacteria begin to multiply and spread, often to the kidneys. This type of infection is the most common cause of kidney infections.
While rare, sometimes the kidneys can become infected when there is another infection present in the body. In these uncommon instances, bacteria is present in the blood and travels to the kidneys.
There are a few factors that may make you more susceptible to a kidney infection. Females have the greatest risk of getting a kidney infection, and they are most present in women. Since women have a short urethra that is also in close proximity to the anus, there is greater chance for bacteria to enter the urethra. Bacteria also only has a short distance to reach the bladder, then the kidneys.
Anyone who has any type of immune system disorder or condition that lowers the immune system is also more at risk for developing a kidney infection. Also if you take any type of medication that is known to weaken the immune system, you are more at risk.
If you have any type of blockage within the urinary tract you are more prone to getting a kidney infection. Blockages can be anything from kidney stones to a swollen prostate gland.
Kidney infections are often seen in those that use urinary catheters for extended periods of time. The longer a catheter is used, the more chance bacteria has of entering the urinary tract.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
There are various symptoms that may be present if you have a kidney infection. Symptoms to look for include:
● Mid to high grade fever
● Dull pain on either side or in your lower back that may radiate
● Burning with urination
A kidney infection is a condition that requires medical attention in order to be treated and cured. If medical attention is sought out early enough, there are usually no long-term complications from a kidney infection.
A urinalysis is done to determine whether or not you have a kidney infection. The urinalysis will show if there is evidence of bacteria or infection in the urine, which could support the diagnosis of a kidney infection.
Treatment and Prevention of Kidney Infections
Treatment for a kidney infection usually requires a course of antibiotics and home rest. Your physician will usually recommend that you drink only water for a few days and avoid heavily carbonated drinks. In severe cases hospitalization may be required.
At home, treatment may be continued by using heat pads for pain relief, over the counter pain medications, and staying hydrated by drinking a lot of water. The water also helps to flush any bacteria from your body. Cranberry juice has also been a proven method of relieving the pain of a kidney infection, speeding up the healing process, and flushing bacteria out.
There are a few ways you can try to prevent getting a kidney infection. You should always wipe from front to back after having a bowel movement, empty the bladder completely after intercourse, and avoid an excess of carbonated beverages. If you have a catheter, you should be sure to keep the area where the catheter enters the urethra clean and sanitized regularly. Women should avoid feminine products that are scented or contain fragrance and instead use products that are scent-free or for sensitive skin.
Complications That Can Arise
If a kidney infection is not treated, there are certain complications you could face. Long-term permanent kidney damage can be a result of an untreated kidney infection. This damage can lead to kidney failure, then death.
If a pregnant woman develops a kidney infection, she is at greater risk for early delivery, and delivery of a baby with a low birth weight.
The kidneys work to filter the blood, then return it cleaned to the rest of the body. When the kidneys become infected, they could send out that blood to the rest of the body with bacteria, causing the infection to spread.