Most urinary tract infections (UTIs) only involve the bladder and the urethra (the lower urinary system).
Pyelonephritis is the result when a urinary tract infection progresses and involves the upper urinary system (kidneys and ureters).
The kidneys filter the blood to produce urine. Two tubes called ureters carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. Urine passes from the bladder to the outside of the body through the urethra.
For the most part, cases of kidney infection are common complications of bladder infections. Bacteria enter the body through the urethra. Then they travel through the urethra to the bladder.
Sometimes, bacteria escape from the bladder and urethra, traveling from the ureters to one or both kidneys.
Pyelonephritis is a potentially serious kidney infection that can pass into the blood, causing a severe illness. Fortunately, pyelonephritis is almost always curable with antibiotics.
The urethra is much shorter in women than in men, which is why women are more vulnerable to urinary tract infections and pyelonephritis.
What are your symptoms?
At least half of the women have experienced discomfort when urinating caused by a urinary tract infection. Usually, the symptoms are:
- Back pain or pain in the side.
- Fever or chills
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Confusion (especially in the elderly).
Kidney infection can cause noticeable changes in urine, such as:
- Blood in the urine (hematuria).
- Urine is cloudy or smelly.
- Pain when urinating.
- Increase in the frequency or urgency of urination.
Why do kidney infections occur?
The bacteria that cause kidney infections are the same as those that cause common urinary tract infections.
Bacteria found in feces (such as E. coli or Klebsiella) are more common. Infrequently skin bacteria or the environment cause a kidney infection.
Some conditions that create reduced urine flow make kidney infection more likely. When urine flow slows or stops, the bacteria can travel more quickly through the ureters. Some causes of urine blockage are:
- Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH)
- Abdominal or pelvic masses (as from cancer).
- Stones in the bladder, urethra, or kidneys.
Kidney stones contribute to kidney infections, allowing bacteria to grow while evading the body’s defenses.
Treatment for kidney infections
Serious infections always require treatment with antibiotics. Home remedies alone are not effective or recommended for kidney infections.
For the most part, cases of kidney infections do not require hospitalization. Home treatment is appropriate if a person can move and consistently take oral antibiotics. For example, they should not be confined to bed.
Hospitalization is required to treat cases of more severe kidney infections. The antibiotics are administered intravenously in the hospital, ensuring that the medication is reaching the kidneys.