Infection of the kidneys is a serious, sometimes life threatening illness that needs to be diagnosed and treated urgently. Bacteria reach the kidneys through the lower urinary tract system, which involves the urethra, bladder, or ureters. Sometimes, bacteria may reach the kidneys through the bloodstream, although that is a rare mechanism of acquiring a kidney infection. Women are more prone to getting pyelonephritis, as they are more likely to get a urinary tract infection on account of shorter urethras.

The main role of kidneys is to filter out waste products from blood. These waste products, along with excess fluid, are then converted into urine and passed out of the body.

A kidney infection usually happens when bacteria, often a type called E. coli, accidentally gets into the urethra (the tube through which urine passes out of the body) from the anus and then travels up through the bladder into one of the kidneys.

Any problem in your urinary tract that prevents pee from flowing forward can also raise your chances of a kidney infection, such as:

  • Blockage in the urinary tract, like a kidney stone or enlarged prostate
  • Conditions that keep the bladder from completely emptying
  • Structural problem in the urinary tract, like a pinched urethra
  • Vesicoureteral reflux (VUR), a condition where pee flows backward from the bladder toward the kidneys

In most cases of kidney infection, only one kidney is affected.


pain in your side

pain and discomfort in your lower back and around your genitals

high temperature (it may reach 39.5ºC or 103.1ºF)



feeling very weak

loss of appetite

nausea and vomiting

Children with kidney infection may often present with poor feeding, irritability and restlessness.


If left untreated, kidney infections can lead to potentially serious complications, such as:

Permanent kidney damage

Infection in the blood (septicemia, also known as blood poisoning)

low birth weight in babies in women who may contract it in pregnancy


Doctors often diagnose kidney infections on the basis of symptoms alone; back pain along with loin pain, fever and shaking and chills are often indicative of a kidney infection. Patients are required to provide a urine sample to detect bacteria, pus or blood in the urine. Ultrasounds, CT Scan or a special kind of x ray called a voiding cystourethrogram may also be ordered.

Antibiotics are the first line of treatment for kidney infections. The type of antibiotic used depends on the general health of the patient, allergic history, and kidney function. After starting treatment, kidney infections usually take 5-7 days to clear up. Some people might need to use antibiotics for longer. For severe infections, patients might be admitted and treated with IV antibiotics. through a vein.

Some people might be prone to getting recurrent kidney infections. These mostly result from an underlying anatomical abnormality of the urinary system, and a kidney specialist (nephrologist) should be consulted for complete evaluation and management plan.


To reduce discomfort during recovery from a kidney infection, stay hydrated, take over the counter pain medication as per guidelines, and prevent further episodes by cleaning properly and thoroughly after voiding, and urinating frequently.

Constipation can also increase your chances of getting UTI, so address any issues with hard and infrequent bowel movements promptly.


Dr. Annie

Physician, mom and wife

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