What are kidney infections?
Your kidneys are the 2 bean-shaped organs that filter waste products out of your blood and make urine. Sometimes a kidney gets infected by bacteria.
Kidney infections are usually caused by the spread of bacteria up your urinary tract to your kidneys
A kidney infection usually causes chills, fever, and back pain
Kidney infections are more common in women than in men
Most kidney infections can be cured with antibiotics
The Urinary Tract
What causes kidney infections?
Most kidney infections are caused by bacteria that normally live in your large intestine. The bacteria get into your kidneys from the outside by traveling up your urinary tract:
First, bacteria get in your urethra (the tube that carries urine from your bladder out of your body)
Then the bacteria travel up to your bladder
From the bladder, bacteria can move up to your kidneys through your ureters (the tubes that connect your kidneys with your bladder)
You're more likely to get kidney infections:
If something is blocking your urinary tract so it's hard for urine to flow out
If you have a urinary catheter (a thin, flexible tube that's put into your urethra to drain your urine)
If you have diabetes Diabetes Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. You get diabetes if your body's normal way of controlling blood sugar isn't working right. There are 2 types of... read more or a weak immune system Overview of the Immune System The immune system is your body's defense system. It helps protect you from illness and infection. The immune system's job is to attack things that don’t belong in your body, including: Germs... read more
During pregnancy (because pressure from the growing baby can block urine flow)
What are the symptoms of a kidney infection?
Sudden chills and fever
Pain in your lower back
Feeling sick to your stomach
People over 60 or 70 years old may have:
An infection of the bloodstream
How can doctors tell if I have a kidney infection?
Your doctor can tell if you have a kidney infection based on:
Testing your urine
Your doctor may do blood tests to see if the infection has spread to the bloodstream.
Your doctor may also do imaging tests (CT [computed tomography] scan or ultrasound) of your kidneys and urinary tract. The imaging tests are to look for a blockage and other abnormalities that might have caused the kidney infection. You may need imaging tests if you:
Still have fever after taking antibiotics for 3 days
Often get kidney infections
Have a blood test that shows you have kidney damage
How do doctors treat kidney infections?
Your doctor will:
Give you antibiotics for 5 to 14 days
Take another urine sample shortly after you finish your antibiotics to make sure the infection is gone
You may need to stay at the hospital to get antibiotics directly into your vein for a few days if you:
Are throwing up a lot
Are dehydrated (have too little water in your body)
Have a disease that weakens your immune system, such as certain cancers, diabetes Diabetes Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. You get diabetes if your body's normal way of controlling blood sugar isn't working right. There are 2 types of... read more , or AIDS Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection and AIDS The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a type of virus called a retrovirus. It causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), which is life-threatening. HIV is called an immunodeficiency... read more
Have signs of a severe infection, such as low blood pressure or confusion
After you leave the hospital, you will take antibiotics at home.
If you have kidney stones Stones in the Urinary Tract (Kidney Stones) Your urinary tract includes: Kidneys, two bean-shaped organs that make urine Ureters, the tubes that drain urine from each kidney to your bladder Bladder, a hollow organ that holds urine until... read more or a problem with your urethra, doctors will treat those problems.
How can I prevent kidney infections?
If you often get kidney infections, your doctor may have you regularly take a small dose of antibiotics.