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Kidney Infection or Pyelonephritis: Causes, Signs, Symptoms, Treatment, Home Remedies, Prevention

What is Kidney Infection or Pyelonephritis?

Kidney infection, which is commonly known as Pyelonephritis, is a specific type of urinary tract infection (UTI), which often originates in the urethra or bladder and travels up into the kidneys. A kidney infection should not be taken lightly and should be treated promptly. If not treated immediately, then it can permanently damage your kidneys, or the bacteria may spread into the bloodstream resulting in a life-threatening infection. Antibiotics and hospitalization are the common line of treatment for Kidney Infection or Pyelonephritis.

Kidney Infection or Pyelonephritis

Causes and Risk Factors of Kidney Infection or Pyelonephritis

Kidney Infection or Pyelonephritis is commonly caused when the bacteria enter the urinary tract via urethra and start to multiply. Bacteria resulting from an infection from other regions of the body can also spread through the bloodstream to the kidneys and cause infection there; however, this is not common. Kidney infection can also occur as a result of a kidney surgery, although it is very rare.

Risk Factors of Kidney Infection or Pyelonephritis

  • Women are at a higher risk for Kidney Infection or Pyelonephritis than men, as a woman’s urethra is shorter than a man’s, so there is less distance for the bacteria to travel from outside the body to the bladder. Also, as the urethra is close to the vagina and anus, it increases the chances for bacteria to enter the bladder where it can spread to the kidneys and result in an infection.
  • Any obstruction in the urinary tract which hinders the flow of urine or reduces the ability to completely empty the bladder such as a kidney stone, structural abnormalities of urinary system or an enlarged prostate gland in men, increases the risk of a kidney infection.
  • Weak immune system which results as a result of certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), increases the risk of kidney infection.
  • Certain drugs which are taken for preventing rejection of transplanted organs may also increase the risk of kidney infection, as they also tend to weaken the immune system.
  • Any damage to nerves around the bladder may block the symptoms of a bladder infection and the patient may not be aware of his progressing disease which may advance to a kidney infection.
  • Using a urinary catheter for prolonged periods of time, such as during and after some surgery and diagnostic tests increases the risk of a kidney infection.
  • Certain conditions such as vesicoureteral reflux, where the urine flows the wrong way back up into the ureters and kidneys increases the chances of having a kidney infection.

Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Infection or Pyelonephritis

  • Fever.
  • Pain in the back, flanks (sides) or groin.
  • Pain in the abdomen.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Strong and continuous urge to urinate.
  • Pain or burning sensation when passing urine.
  • Presence of pus or blood in urine (hematuria).
  • Serious symptoms include nausea, vomiting and hematuria.

Investigations for Kidney Infection or Pyelonephritis

If the patient is having symptoms such as fever and upper back pain then a kidney infection is suspected. Complete urine examination (CUE) is done to determine the presence of blood or pus in urine.

Treatment for Kidney Infection or Pyelonephritis

  • Antibiotics are the first line of treatment for treating Kidney Infection or Pyelonephritis. The type of antibiotic used and its duration depends on the bacteria found in the urine and on the patient’s health.
  • Commonly, the patient’s signs and symptoms of a kidney infection start to clear within a few days of treatment; however, the patient may need to continue to take antibiotics for a week or longer, so that the infection is completely eliminated. Patients should always take their antibiotics for the complete duration recommended by their physician in order to get rid of the infection completely.
  • In case of severe kidney infections, hospitalization is required where I.V. antibiotics are given, i.e. they are given through a vein in the arm (intravenously). Duration of hospitalization depends on the severity of the infection.
  • For treating recurrent kidney infections, patient is referred to a kidney specialist (nephrologist) or urinary surgeon (urologist). The cause of recurrent kidney infections could be an underlying medical problem, such as a structural abnormality of the urinary system which may require surgery to repair it.

Lifestyle Changes and Home Remedies for Kidney Infection or Pyelonephritis

  • Applying heat on abdomen, back or side helps in relieving feelings of pressure or pain.
  • Pain killers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) help in fever or discomfort.
  • Keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. This will help in flushing out the bacteria from the urinary tract.
  • Avoid drinking coffee and alcohol till the infection has cleared, as these drinks tend to aggravate the frequency or the urge to urinate.

Prevention of Kidney Infection or Pyelonephritis

  • Do not hold back the urge to urinate and urinate frequently.
  • Keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. This will help in flushing out the bacteria from the urinary tract.
  • Always drink a glass of water and empty your bladder after intercourse, as urinating immediately after intercourse helps in clearing the bacteria from the urethra and thus reduces the risk of infection.
  • Women should wipe from front to back after urinating and after a bowel movement, as it prevents the bacteria from spreading to the urethra.
  • Women should avoid using any feminine products (deodorant sprays, douches etc.) in genital region, as this can irritate the urethra.


  1. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Kidney Infection (Pyelonephritis). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/kidney-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20353387

  2. Healthline. (2021). Kidney Infection (Pyelonephritis). https://www.healthline.com/health/kidney-infection

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 21, 2023

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