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Kidney infection

Having an infection of the kidney may make you feel very sick indeed. However if you receive the right kind of treatment then it is most likely that you will make a very quick recovery.

What is it?

Kidneys are responsible for making urine from the body’s waste products. Almost all kidney infections begin when the bacteria climb up into your urethra (the pipe in your body that urine comes out of). From here the bacteria may spread up this pipe to infect both or only one of the kidneys. The medical name for a kidney infection is pyelonephritis. There are many people who can be simply treated at home.

However if you have problems with the way your bladder, kidneys, or ureters are formed then you might need treatment in hospital. You may also require hospital treatment if you have kidney stones, are very unwell, if you are older than 60 or if you are pregnant. It is true that anyone can get a kidney infection, however there are particular things make it much more likely. Things that make it more likely are known as risk factors. In the case of female patients, risk factors for kidney infections are very much the same as for infections of the bladder. Such risk factors include: diabetes, having had cystitis in the last year, using a spermicidal for contraception, and having sex frequently.


Those who suffer from a kidney infection feel very sick. Symptoms usually come about over a several hour period. Things you may notice are a high temperature, pain in your side, shivering, backache, diarrhea, vomiting, or nausea. There may also be the need to pass urine very often.

This will often be painful and the urine may look cloudy or be a strange color. Older people can get different symptoms such as a high temperature, confusion, pain in your side or back, or loss of appetite. However a minority of people with an infection of the kidney gets very few symptoms or even no symptoms at all. There are symptoms that a kidney infection can cause that are very much like other illnesses such as, appendicitis, kidney stones, or pelvic inflammatory disease. A urine test will need to be performed in order to check for infection. Sometimes further tests are required such as an ultrasound, CT, or X-ray scans.


Most commonly antibiotics are given for the treatment of a kidney infection. There are many different types of antibiotics that you can take and most of these can be taken at home. However there are some people that require antibiotics administered via a drip in hospital. Most of the research has been completed on non-pregnant women with kidney infections. However the same treatments in this research are used in men suffering from kidney infections.

If you are not sick enough to be admitted to hospital then you will most likely be given antibiotic tablets at home. You will most likely be told to take these tablets for one or two weeks. This will depend upon how bad the infection is. Many doctors believe that you must take antibiotics for at least ten days to show any benefit, however there is no research to show that this is the case. In most cases you should begin to feel much better within a few days and should be completely better after two weeks.

Make sure that you finish all of your antibiotic tablets, even if you are feeling better. Some of the antibiotics that are used in the treatment of kidney infections include: ciprofloxacin, amoxicillin, ampicillin, co-amoxiclav, co-trimoxazole, and cefaclor. It can be said that almost all of these antibiotics work as well as each other, however some of the anitbiotics no longer work against some of the bugs that they used to. This is a reality in medicine known as resistance and this varies from country to country and place to place. Antibiotics can cause a number of side effects including diarrhea and stomach upsets.

What can I do?

There is no denying that kidney infections can be very painful and you may want to take some pain relief to help reduce the pain and fever. If you are experiencing a lot of pain then you should talk to your doctor, as he or she will be able to prescribe something stronger than what you can buy yourself. Almost all doctors will recommend that you take paracetamol to relieve the pain, however do not take too much as it can cause liver damage. Some of the other painkillers that may be useful are ibuprofen and aspirin. These can have side effects and so you should only take the recommended dose and only use if absolutely necessary. It is very important that you drink lots of fluid. You must let your doctor know immediately if you do not feel much better after four days of taking the antibiotics.

Other treatments!

If you are very unwell and need to be treated in hospital then it is likely that you will be given antibiotics through an IV line. These are fast acting as they get straight into your blood stream. In most cases you will be given antibiotics through this drip for a few days and then be switched to oral tablets after a little while. There is actually no evidence that IV antibiotics work better than tablets, however there are side effects associated with the IV drip. Some of these side effects include rash, nausea, diarrhea, and inflammation of the vagina in women.


The outcome that you will have following a kidney infection is dependent on several things. Some of these include how bad the infection is, whether you have other health complaints, how old you are, and whether or not you get the right medication. In some cases antibiotic treatment fails to work. Sometimes this can happen if the bacteria causing the infection are resistant to the antibiotic being used. In this case a different type of antibiotic must be used. In most cases patients get completely better with treatment, however some can get a build up of pus in their kidney known as an abscess.

An operation is often required in order to remove this pus. This operation is required so that sepsis and kidney failure do not occur. Bacteria that get into the blood stream cause sepsis and kidney failure occurs when your kidneys stop working. If either of these complications ensues then you will require intensive care in a hospital. In some cases a kidney infection may recur and cause damage to the kidney. Infections of this kind can occur less over time, however some doctors may recommend that you take a small amount of antibiotic when this happens.