What is Kidney Infection

kidney infection is also known as a renal infection or pyelonephritis. These infections happen when bacteria from your urinary tract travel up your urethra and affect one or both of your kidneys. Generally, the bacteria responsible for kidney infections come from other parts of the urinary tract, such as the bladder, ureters, or urethra. Those most affected by kidney infection are people who already have a bladder infection, females, and pregnant people.

It is important to seek medical advice immediately if you’re experiencing signs or symptoms of kidney infection. The condition can cause permanent kidney damage or spread to other parts of your body when ignored.

What is Kidney Infection

The Signs and Symptoms

Kidney infections develop very quickly, usually within a day or even a few hours. The symptoms of a kidney infection include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chills and/or shivering
  • Lower back pain
  • Pain in the groin
  • Pain on the side
  • Fever

If you have a urinary tract infection (UTI), you may experience difficulty when you try to urinate. You will likely experience a burning or stinging sensation. Other symptoms could include:

  • Blood in your urine
  • Cloudy urine
  • A foul smell in your urine
  • Frequent need to urinate
  • An inability to fully empty your bladder
  • Pain in your lower abdomen
  • Confusion

Male vs Female

The symptoms of a kidney infection present themselves in a similar way for both sexes. Females, however, are more likely to develop kidney infections. The urethra of a female is typically shorter than the urethra of a male. The anus and vagina are also closer to the urethra than that of a male. This makes it much easier for bacteria to enter the body through the urinary tract. When a female is pregnant, they are more likely to develop urinary tract infections and kidney infections as well.

If a male under 65 presents with a urinary tract infection, the doctor will opt to rule out any other conditions first! UTI in men is less prevalent than in women, so the doctor might check the person for other types of infections as well as signs of a UTI.

The Causes of Kidney Infection

When a bacteria or virus enters the urethra and reproduces in the bladder, an infection starts, causing kidney infection. Most kidney infections are a result of a bladder infection that has traveled to the kidneys.

Why these infections may occur:

  • When a transference from the bowel to the genitals happens during intercourse.
  • Transferring feces to the urethra when wiping with toilet paper after a bowel movement.
  • Contracting a urinary tract infection.

Similar to other infections, kidney infections carry a risk factor. These risk factors include:

  • Kidney stones
  • Having a urinary catheter.
  • An enlarged prostate in males.
  • A urinary tract is shaped in a way where urine is unable to easily pass through.
  • Vesicoureteral reflux. This is when the urinary tract allows for urine to flow back up into the ureters.
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • A weakened immune system caused by medication or medical conditions
  • Nerve damage or a spinal cord injury that could potentially block symptoms of a bladder infection.

The Urinary Tract Explained

The urinary tract consists of four important parts, each responsible for a specific function.

Kidneys: Most people are born with two kidneys that can be found on either side of the abdomen. The kidney’s role is to remove poisonous substances from the blood.

Ureters: The little tubes through which urine flows from the kidneys to the bladder are called ureters. Each kidney has its ureter, which connects to the bladder.

Bladder: Known for storing urine, the bladder is a round, hollow, bag-like organ in the lower abdomen.

Urethra: The urethra is the main tube that carries urine from a person’s bladder to outside the body. The urethra travels down the penis to an opening at the end in males. In females, the urethra can be found running from the bladder to just above the vaginal opening. The urethra is longer in males than in females.

Types of Treatment

If you’re suspected of having a kidney infection, you’ll need to have your urine tested. The common course of treatment for a kidney infection is a list of antibiotics. However, some people do require alternative treatments.


Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics before your test results return if you have symptoms of an infection. You might be prescribed something for pain relief as well. If you have been prescribed antibiotics, it’s of utmost importance that you complete your course to help battle the infection. Once your doctor receives your test result, they will prescribe you a new antibiotic that will better fight off the infection.

Types of Antibiotics:

Your prescription of antibiotics will vary depending on the type of infection you have as well as your medical history.

Antibiotics used for the treatment of kidney infection include:

  • Nitrofurantoin
  • Trimethoprim
  • Fosfomycin
  • Pivmecillinam hydrochloride
  • Amoxicillin
  • Cephalexin
  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Cefuroxime
  • Co-amoxiclav


If you have a kidney infection, you must consume plenty of fluids. This will help prevent fever and dehydration. Your fluid intake may vary depending on the type of infection.

Treatment in Hospital

If your symptoms aren’t improving or if you have severe symptoms, you might require hospital treatment. You’ll then receive antibiotics intravenously through a vein in your arm. Fluids will be given through a drip if you’re suffering from dehydration. This treatment and hospital stay ranges from 3-7 days.


If you’re suffering from an enlarged prostate or kidney stone, you might require surgery as treatment. This is because the kidney stone or enlarged prostate could block your urinary tract.

Getting to the Diagnosis

Your doctor will generally go through your medical history to check for any health conditions that may link to a kidney infection.

Procedures for diagnosis include:

Physical examination: During a physical examination, your doctor will check your general state of health. This includes your heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, signs of dehydration, and respiratory rate. Your doctor might assess your mid to lower back as well to check for any pain or tenderness.

Rectal examination: If you are male, your doctor might opt to check for an enlarged prostate that could block the neck of the bladder. This is done by using a digital rectal examination.

Pelvic examination: Young females would need to undergo a pelvic examination. This is done to verify whether there are any signs of an asymptomatic pelvic inflammatory disease. Females might be required to take a pregnancy test as well.

Urine sample: Your doctor might request you urinate into a cup. This urine sample will then be sent to a laboratory for testing. An infection can be diagnosed by noting if any bacteria or white blood cells show up in the sample.

Imaging: Imaging of the kidney area is often requested by a doctor. This is done via CT scan, MRI scan, or ultrasound.

What We’ve Gathered

The signs and symptoms of kidney infection present the same in males and females, although females are more prone to infection because their urethra is shorter. Antibiotics are prescribed to fight off the infection. In severe cases, hospitalization is required.