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Signs You May Have a Kidney Infection

Dec 22, 2015 10:55AM ● By Dia

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By Jeffrey Peebles, M.D. – Southlake Medical Director, Complete Care

A urinary tract infection, or UTI, typically affects only the urethra and bladder, known as the lower urinary system. However, there are times where a UTI can also involve the kidneys, resulting in an infection known as pyelonephritis. Here are some ways to tell if you have this potentially serious condition.

Symptoms of a Kidney Infection

If the type of kidney infection known as pyelonephritis spreads to the blood, that can result in a severe illness. But since pyelonephritis can be effectively treated with antibiotics, early detection is key. Get to your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms:

·      Back pain

·      Chills or fever

·      Confusion

·      General malaise

·      Nausea

·      Vomiting

You may also notice changes in your urine, such a blood in the urine, foul-smelling or cloudy urine, or pain when urinating. Another sign may be an increased frequency of urination, or increased urgency.


Pyelonephritis is typically caused by the same bacteria that causes a UTI, such E. coli. There are some instances, however, where environmental bacteria can cause the infection, as well as skin bacteria.

If you have a condition that results in a reduced flow of urine, that could help lead to pyelonephritis. Any time the flow of urine either slows down or stops completely, that can make it easier for bacteria to move into the kidneys. Anything that can obstruct the flow of urine can lead to pyelonephritis, such as kidney or bladder stones or a pelvic or abdominal mass.


Once your doctor has determined you have pyelonephritis (the condition is usually diagnosed through a urinalysis, urine culture, CT scan, kidney ultrasound or blood cultures), he or she will probably also look for any conditions that could be causing the infection. These could include kidney defects or kidney stones. If this underlying problem is corrected, that will substantially reduce the chances you will develop pyelonephritis again.

The only effective way to treat this type of kidney infection is antibiotics – there are no home remedies that have proven to work. Hospitalization is typically not required as long as you can get around and you can take oral antibiotics. If you have a severe case, however, then you may need to be hospitalized and have the antibiotics delivered intravenously. 

In most cases, pyelonephritis can be completely cured through antibiotics with no lasting damage to the kidneys. Once you have it, the chances are small that you will ever develop the condition again.

   If you or someone in your home is showing signs of a kidney infection, or you ever experience any kind of medical emergency, get in touch with the experts at Complete Care. Contact us online to learn more.

Dr. Jeffrey Peebles, M.D. has an extensive amount of experience in delivering advanced emergency care. He is board certified with the American Board of Emergency Medicine, and a member of the American College of Emergency Physicians/Texas College of Emergency Physicians. Dr. Peebles is committed to providing timely, affordable and high-quality medical care to the Southlake community.