Acute Pyelonephritis

What is acute pyelonephritis?

Acute pyelonephritis is a kidney infection caused by bacteria. The infection may start lower in the urinary tract, such as in your bladder. The infection then travels up the urinary tract to one or both kidneys.

What increases my risk for acute pyelonephritis?

You may be at higher risk for infection if you are pregnant or have diabetes, kidney stones, or cancer. This is because your immune system may not be able to fight the infection. You may also be at higher risk if you have a urinary catheter. You may develop a kidney infection if bacteria enter your urethra after sex.

What are the signs and symptoms for acute pyelonephritis?

  • Pain in your abdomen, lower back, or sides

  • Pain or burning when you urinate

  • Urge to urinate often but only urinate a little at a time

  • Unable to urinate

  • Bloody or cloudy urine

  • Fever, chills, and tiredness

  • Nausea and vomiting

How is acute pyelonephritis diagnosed?

  • A urine test will check kidney function.

  • Blood tests will check for infection.

  • An ultrasound uses sound waves to show pictures on a monitor. An ultrasound may be done to show an infection, abscess, or other problems in your kidneys.

How is acute pyelonephritis treated?

  • Antibiotics will treat your infection.

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.

  • NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's doctor.

  • Surgery may be needed if a ureter is blocked. The ureter is the tube that takes urine from a kidney to the bladder. A blocked ureter can cause repeated kidney infections.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Drink liquids as directed. Ask your caregiver how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.

  • Urinate as soon as you feel the urge. This will help flush bacteria from your urinary system. Do not wait or hold your urine for too long.

  • Clean your genital area every day with soap and water. Wipe from front to back after you urinate or have a bowel movement. Wear cotton underwear. Fabrics such as nylon and polyester can stay damp. This can increase your risk for infection. Urinate within 15 minutes after you have sex.

When should I contact my caregiver?

  • You have a fever after you take antibiotics for 2 days.

  • You have pain when you urinate, even after treatment.

  • Your signs and symptoms return.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have a fever and shaking chills.

  • You cannot stop vomiting.

  • You have severe pain in your abdomen, lower back, or sides.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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