Kidney infections are a type of urinary tract infection (UTI) affecting the urethra and spreading up to the kidneys. They are considered an acute condition and usually require immediate medical attention, as the infection can cause permanent damage to the kidneys or enter the bloodstream and become life-threatening.
Most cases of kidney infection have a sudden onset, which means the symptoms are quick and easy to notice. Common kidney infection symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, frequent urination and feeling a persistent need to urinate, painful urination, and blood in the urine. In some patients, painful urination is followed by nausea and vomiting, as well as fainting, weakness, and chills.
Many patients also feel a dull pain in their back, side, or groin that becomes worse over several hours. This symptom is often mistaken for a stress injury or just general back pain. However, in a kidney infection, the pain is sharp and localized, and unlike muscle pain, it does not go away when one changes positions and may even get worse with movement.
Because many of these symptoms can suggest other, less serious conditions, doctors often look for a combination of them or a history of urinary tract infections, unless the symptoms are severe. Often, the earliest sign of a kidney infection is when a person being treated for a urinary tract infection isn’t showing any improvement, or is getting worse.
Another type of kidney infection is called chronic kidney infection. This is usually caused by a kidney stone blocking the ureter, or other abnormalities that obstruct the flow of urine. The symptoms are similar to that of acute kidney infection, but are much milder and can last weeks or months. This makes it harder to diagnose; many patients come to the doctor only when the blockage has caused an acute infection.
Diagnosis of kidney infection usually starts with checking vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate. This is to ensure that the infection, if present, has not started affecting other vital organs. If it has, the patient is stabilized before further testing. The kidney infection itself is confirmed through a urinalysis test, which must be carefully administered to prevent contamination from surrounding organs.
Kidney infections are treated with antibiotics, which are chosen based on the type and severity of the infection. More serious cases may require hospitalization, during which antibiotics are administered intravenously. With the right medication, the infection clears up within a few days.