Upper urinary tract infection involving either one or both kidneys is termed as kidney infection or pyelonephritis. Kidney infection belongs to the family of infections of the urinary system called urinary tract infections (UTIs). It is more commonly observed in women but also seen in men and children. Depending on the onset of symptoms kidney infections are categorized as acute and chronic infections. Infections that develop immediately are termed as acute infections and those that develop gradually and keep recurring are termed as chronic kidney infections.
Kidney infection develops due to various reasons such as pregnancy, use of urinary catheters, kidney stones, structural abnormalities in urinary system and invasion of bacteria present in areas such as urethra, vagina and anus. Frequent sexual intercourse of about three times a week or with a new partner also increases the risk of kidney infection in women. Kidney infection symptoms are hard to diagnose in children as they are not easily identifiable.
Kidney infection symptoms
- Dull pain in the lower back: Kidney infection causes pain in and around the region where kidneys are located. Hence, patient starts to feel pain in the sides of the waist region and even in the groin region. The pain can be very severe that it can be felt even on slight tapping of the area.
- Pain while urinating: Burning sensation is felt while urinating and the frequency of urination also increases. Urine will be cloudy and foul smelling. Traces of blood may also be observed.
- Delirium : Older men suffering with kidney infection may suddenly become confused. They even fail to explain about the pain or notice abnormal color or cloudiness of urine.
- Increased heart beat that can be 100 to 110 beats per minute. Even the extent of breathing becomes very rapid.
- Fever and Chills : Fever is very common and may reach up to 102 degrees continuing for about two days.
- Nausea and Vomiting.
- General weakness.
Treatment of Kidney Infections
Kidney infection can be treated by using antibiotics in most of the cases. For appropriate treatment it is very important to diagnose the exact cause for kidney infection symptoms. Depending on the history of symptoms and physical examination urine is initially tested for the presence of abnormal components such as nitrates, blood, leukocytes, sediments, ketones and bacteria. If signs of bacterial infection are identified urine is further analyzed to know the type of bacteria and its sensitivity to a particular antibiotic. Blood cultures are also done to identify if the infection has spread to blood. Complicated cases are studied by using imaging techniques such as CT scan, MRI scan of the pelvis and abdomen region. Ultrasounds and X-rays are used to know the presence of structural abnormalities or kidney stones.
- Majority of pyelonephritis conditions can be treated by taking empiric antibiotics orally. Patients with increased vomiting are hospitalized and treated by giving antibiotics intravenously to ensure that the antibiotic reaches the kidneys. In either case, antibiotics are to be continued for a period of seven to fourteen days.
- Rarely, kidney infection may result in abscess that is hard to treat with antibiotics alone. It is generally drained by inserting a tube in the back to reach the affected area.
- Kidney infection resulting due to structural abnormalities, obstructions or due to presence of stones is generally treated by surgery. Infectious kidney may be removed in people with chronic kidney infection.
In an attempt to inhibit bacterial growth many people take excess of orange juice but excess intake of orange or other vitamin C rich drinks contributes to formation of kidney stones, diarrhea and vomiting. Thus, consult your physician before taking orange juice.
Prevention and precautions to be taken
As bacteria are the major cause for kidney infections, maintaining personal hygiene can reduce the risk to a great extent.
- Urinate whenever required: It is very important to attend the nature calls immediately without postponing. Urinating immediately after having intercourse reduces the risk of kidney infections in women.
- In individuals who are on urinary catheters area close to the catheter should be cleaned regularly and catheter should also be changed regularly.
- Individuals suffering with recurring kidney infection due to kidney stones should get them removed and also take measures to prevent further formation of new stones.
- Taking cranberry juice reduces the risk of kidney infections.
If any of the listed kidney infection symptoms are noticed it is highly recommended to consult physician and get the required treatment as the infection can spread to blood causing severe infection termed as septicemia. It may also permanently damage the kidney. Pregnant women may give birth to low birth weight babies.