Kidneys form one of our body’s vital organs. Their primary functions include filtering out the waste products from our system, regulation of blood pressure, maintaining optimum level of electrolytes and helping in the production of blood cells. Kidney infection belongs to a class of the urinary system infections known as urinary tract infections (UTIs). Infection involving the kidneys falls under the second category and in medical jargon is termed as pyelonephritis.
The main cause of kidney infection is presence of bacteria in the urine, which is normally a sterile bodily fluid. The bacteria can enter either from outside the urethra, reach the kidneys and can then infect the blood. The bacterial infection may also invade the body through the rectum, vagina or even the skin. Women are more susceptible to contracting a urinary tract infection as they have a urethra of a shorter length. Sexual intercourse may also increase the risk of developing a kidney infection; pregnant women are also known to be in the high risk category as the enlarged uterus exerts pressure on the ureters and blocks the flow of urine. Kidney stones, bladder catheters, and enlarged prostate may obstruct the bladder or allows for bacteria to thrive causing urinary tract infections. Structural abnormalities of the urinary tract are also a contributing factor especially in children.
The presence of a kidney infection generally is associated with the following symptoms:
- Fever and other flu-like symptoms
- Chills and shivering
- Nausea and vomiting
- Experiencing pain in the abdominal region
- Suffering from painful urination (a burning sensation) (dysuria)
- A dull ache on the side, lower back, groin area
- Passing pus or blood in the urine
- Having the urge to urinate frequently
- General weakness and fatigue
The most common course of action is taking appropriate mostly oral antibiotics prescribed by a qualified medical health professional. Once the kidney infection has been diagnosed, your doctor may prescribe an empiric antibiotic, which is a general medication effective on most bacteria suspected to have caused such an infection. Once the urine and blood culture reports have effectively singled out the particular bacteria, medication may be changed to target the specific organism. This is also done if the bacteria are resistant or unresponsive to the current dosage of medication. Majority of infections which do not fall under the severe category can be treated at home, with strict adherence to the antibiotic dose. The patient must keep himself adequately hydrated (by consuming sufficient fluids) and rested. A heating pad is also a commonly used pain reliever.
In case of a severe infection when symptoms of nausea and vomiting continue unabated, hospitalisation may be necessary and intravenous dispensation of antibiotics and fluids may be resorted to. If the cause of the infection is detected as a structural abnormality, surgery may be opted for. To prevent the onset of a kidney infection maintaining hygiene is essential. Individuals using a catheter must routinely replace it.
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