Kidney infections belong to the family of infections in the urinary system called Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs).  Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are bacterial infections in the body’s urinary system — the bladder, kidneys, ureters, and urethra. In the kidneys, the infection is called pyelonephritis; in the bladder, it is called cystitis.

Urinary tract infections are common in women. Children with UTIs may show different symptoms than adults. It occurs when bacteria enter your urinary tract through the tube that carries urine from your body and begin to multiply.  Because women have a shorter tube that carries urine from the bladder (urethra), urinary tract infections are more common in women.

Here are the factors that increases the risk of having urinary tract infection:

  • Sexual intercourse, by the introduction of the bacteria from outside to the urinary system.
  • Pregnant women, because of slower transit of urine from the ureter due to increased pressure caused by the enlarging uterus.
  • Kidney stones that will cause obstruction to the flow of urine.
  • Bladder catheters that can act as a vehicle for the bacteria to gain access to the urine inside the bladder.

Kidney infection requires immediate medical attention because it may damage the kidneys or spread the bacteria in the blood stream if not treated properly.

The symptoms of urinary tract infections include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Generalized weakness
  • dehydration
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Abdominal pain in the area over the bladder (above the pubic bone)
  • A need to urinate immediately, as soon as any urine collects in the bladder
  • Need to urinate frequently
  • Passage of small amounts of urine at a time
  • Need to get up from sleep to urinate
  • Low back or flank pain
  • Cloudy urine
  • Bloody urine
  • Bad-smelling urine
  • Pain behind the scrotum
  • Painful ejaculation or, rarely, bloody semen

Symptoms such as fever or chills or nausea suggest the presence of a more serious infection, such as a kidney infection, and should receive immediate medical attention. Pregnant women may not have any symptoms of infection, so their urine should be checked during their regular prenatal doctor visits.

Call Your Doctor if:

  • You develop any pain or burning or difficulty with urination.
  • Burning is accompanied by a discharge from the vagina or penis, or other sign of sexually transmitted disease, pelvic inflammatory disease or other serious infection; see your doctor without delay.
  • You notice blood in your urine.
  • You begin to urinate often and in small amounts.
  • You find yourself having to urinate very urgently.
  • You have back pain or pain in the area over your bladder.
  • You notice that your urine appears cloudy or has an unpleasant odor.
  • You develop a fever or chills, which may indicate a more serious infection, such as a kidney infection.


Most urinary tract infections are diagnosed by a description of your symptoms.  The doctor will have to ask the patient to collect urine, by first cleaning his/her genitals then catching the urine midstream.  The urine will be passed in the laboratory, where the laboratory scientists will examine the urine, called the urinalysis.  A urine culture is another test that can tell the type of bacteria causing the infection, as well as help determine which antibiotic that can best treat the infection.

Other tests may be ordered if your doctor thinks that there is some other problem causing the urinary tract infection, such as a kidney stone or a condition called reflux, in which the urine backs up from the bladder toward the kidneys, or if there is a history of recurrent infections.

Other Tests for Urinary Tract Infections Include:

  • Blood tests
  • Ultrasound test of the urinary tract
  • X-rays of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder
  • CT scans
  • Cystoscopy, in which a long, thin telescope is inserted up the urethra to examine the inside of the bladder
  • Intravenous pyelogram, an X-ray test that uses dye so your doctor can better see the urinary system



As soon as UTI is diagnosed, the doctor will prescribe the patient antibiotics.  The choice of antibiotics depends on the specific situations, clinical setting, tolerance, allergies, and ability to take oral medications.

Some of the common antibiotics used are sulfonamides (trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole), quinolones (ciprofloxacin, levafloxacin), cephalosporins, newer generation penicillins, and nitrofurantoin.

Most cases of simple acute cystitis — a single episode of a bladder infection — in young women can be treated with a three- to seven-day course of an antibiotic. If symptoms come back, additional tests might be done to rule out other problems.

Pregnant women, patients with diabetes, patients with kidney stones or other obstructions to the flow of urine, and people who have had symptoms for longer than a week, should all be given a 5- to 14-day course of antibiotics. When infection has spread to the kidneys, then treatment should continue to 10-14 days. In men with prostatitis, the antibiotics should be given for several weeks.

You should also drink lots of water to help wash out the bacteria from the urinary system.

To confirm that the treatment was successful, your doctor may repeat urine cultures one to two weeks after you finish the antibiotic. Pregnant women who have been treated for an infection should have monthly urine tests performed until their baby is delivered.

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