Pyelonephritis refers to a urinary tract infection (UTI) wherein the infection reaches the kidneys. The signs and symptoms of a kidney infection could vary depending on the nature of the infection. It is essential to pay heed to the symptoms as this infection could become life-threatening in absence of prompt medical treatment.
A kidney infection is actually a type of UTI that occurs when pathogens such as bacteria or viruses travel through the bladder to the kidneys. The infection can affect one or both kidneys. It occurs when these disease-causing agents multiply after reaching the kidneys. Escherichia coli, which is a bacterium that is usually found in the large intestine, is a causative agent for pyelonephritis in 90% of cases of kidney infection among the people. Conditions like diabetes, kidney stones, cancer, and abnormalities of the urinary tract can affect the body’s ability to ward off pathogens that could cause kidney infections.
Foley catheters can lead to infection if left for extended periods. Women, often get this infection, when bacteria enter the urinary tract after sexual intercourse. The infection can be acute or chronic. An acute infection begins suddenly with severe symptoms. On the other hand, a chronic infection develops gradually at a slow pace. While the symptoms are not that severe, a chronic infection can even lead to kidney failure in absence of proper treatment.
The following symptoms may be seen in case of kidney infection:
- Burning sensation or pain while urination takes place
- Strong and continual urge to urinate
- Frequent urination
- Back or groin pain
- Inability to urinate
- Cloudy urine with a strong smell
- Pain in the loin (side of the abdomen above the kidney)
- Pus or blood in the urine called hematuria
- Feeling sick (nausea)
- Abdominal pain or pressure
- Need of urinating during the night called nocturia
Severe kidney infection includes:
- Extreme fatigue
- Shaking chills
- Nausea or vomiting
- Night sweats
- High fever – body temperature of 38.3 degrees celsius or more
In case of infants as well as young children, the signs are:
- Loss of appetite
- New episodes of bed-wetting (enuresis)
- Loose bowel movements
In elderly people, mental changes like confusion are the sole symptoms. If, not treated in time, they can lead to blood poisoning, loss of a kidney or sometimes death. Some of the warning signs of a kidney infection are as follows:
- Burning during urination: This is a good sign of a urinary tract infection. The burning is not to be confused with the itching or burning of a yeast infection. The burning is accompanied by pain and at times, brings tears in the eyes.
- There is a pain in the lower back and right around the waist. This feels like a dull ache. There may be a sharp and stabbing pain. There may be a feeling that somebody is punching repetitiously. Any pain concentrated to the small corner of the lower back can lead to kidney trouble.
- Fatigue is a prominent symptom, that can affect the person suddenly. Exhaustion can take place to such a degree that, keeping the eyes open is a struggle.
If left untreated, pyelonephritis can permanently damage the kidneys or move into the bloodstream and result in a life-threatening infection. It is therefore essential to seek medical help at the earliest. Antibiotics are recommended for treating a kidney infection caused by bacteria. Urine culture and urinalysis would also be required to make sure that the infection has resolved. Following a healthy diet and making other lifestyle-related changes can also help in lowering the risk of kidney problems.