Bacteria may be introduced to the urinary tract and ultimately the kidneys by:
- Sexual activity
Conditions that block or slow the flow of urine such as:
- Enlarged prostate gland
- Kidney stones
- Birth defect of the urinary tract, including vesicoureteral reflux
- Having a test to examine the bladder— cystoscopy
- Having a catheter or stent placed in the urinary tract
- Conditions that impair bladder emptying like multiple sclerosis and spina bifida
Other medical conditions that increase your risk of infection include:
- Recurrent urinary tract infection
- Polycystic kidneys
- Sickle cell anemia
- Previous kidney transplant
- Weakened immune system
Symptoms of kidney infection may include:
- Pain in the abdomen, lower back, side, or groin
- Frequent urination
- Urgent urination that produces only a small amount of urine
- Sensation of a full bladder—even after urination
- Burning pain with urination
- Fever and chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pus and blood in the urine
- Loss of appetite
Complications from untreated or poorly treated kidney infection can lead to:
- A serious, life-threatening infection that spreads throughout the body— sepsis
- Chronic infection
- Severe kidney disease, which may result in scarring of tissue or permanent damage
You will be treated with antibiotics. Be sure to take all of the medication. Antibiotics may need to be delivered through an IV. This may require a stay in the hospital.
Surgical correction of vesicoureteral reflux in children may reduce risk of a kidney infection.
Kidney infection is often a complication of a bladder infection. You can prevent bladder infections if you:
- Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Cranberry juice is a good choice to prevent bladder infection.
- Practice good hygiene.
- Urinate as soon as you feel the urge.
- Take showers rather than baths.
- Wipe from the front to the back after using the toilet.
- Urinate before and after sex. Drink water to help flush bacteria.
- Avoid genital deodorant sprays and douches.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
Copyright © EBSCO Information Services
All rights reserved.
a (Infection, Kidney; Pyelonephritis)
National Kidney Foundation https://www.kidney.org
Urology Care Foundation http://www.urologyhealth.org
The Kidney Foundation of Canada https://www.kidney.ca
Women's Health Matters http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca
Complicated urinary tract infection (UTI). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114928/Complicated-urinary-tract-infection-UTI . Updated January 26, 2017. Accessed September 7, 2017.
Kidney infection (pyelonephritis). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/kidney-infection-pyelonephritis. Accessed August 17, 2015.
Uncomplicated urinary tract infection (UTI) (pyelonephritis and cystitis). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116894/Uncomplicated-urinary-tract-infection-UTI-pyelonephritis-and-cystitis . Updated March 15, 2017. Accessed September 7, 2017
Urinary tract infection (UTI) in men. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T904748/Urinary-tract-infection-UTI-in-men . Updated January 26, 2017. Accessed September 7, 2017.
3/6/2013 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116894/Uncomplicated-urinary-tract-infection-UTI-pyelonephritis-and-cystitis : Nikolaidis P, Casalino DD, Remer EM. American College of Radiology Appropriateness Criteria Acute Pyelonephritis. National Guideline Clearinghouse website. Available at: https://www.guideline.gov/summaries/summary/37923?. Updated 2012.