Pyelonephritis

What is it?

  • Pyelonephritis (pi-uh-lo-nef-ri-tis) is a pus-forming kidney infection. It usually starts as a bladder infection. The infection then travels from the bladder to the kidneys. A kidney infection can begin very quickly. Or it can be a long-term problem that slowly gets worse but cannot be cured. A long-term kidney infection may cause kidney failure.


  • The kidneys are bean-shaped organs that remove unwanted chemicals and waste from the blood. These wastes are turned into urine by the kidneys. The kidneys are attached to the bladder by little tubes called ureters (yer-ih-ters). Urine travels down the ureters and into the bladder. The bladder is a hollow organ that holds urine. When you urinate, it travels through the urethra (a small tube) and out your body.


Causes: Pyelonephritis is usually caused by germs called bacteria (bak-teer-e-uh). Some health problems can decrease your ability to fight germs that can lead to an infection. These problems may include pregnancy, diabetes (di-uh-b-tees), cancer, or kidney stones. Having a Foley catheter for a long time may also cause a kidney infection. A Foley catheter is a tube that is put into a person's bladder to drain urine. Sometimes women get a kidney infection when bacteria get in the urethra after sex. You may also get kidney infections if your urinary system is not normal.

Signs and Symptoms: You may have symptoms of an infection very quickly. These may include fever, chills, pain, nausea (upset stomach), vomiting (throwing up), or low back pain (flank pain). You may need to pass urine often or not be able to urinate at all. You may also have blood in your urine making it look pink or red. It may hurt or burn when you urinate.

Care: A urine sample will be sent to the lab for tests. You may need to go into the hospital for more tests and treatment. Antibiotic (an-ti-bi-ah-tik) medicine is used to treat the infection. To keep from getting another kidney infection, drinks lots of water and urinate often. If you are a woman, wipe from front to back after urinating or having a BM. Women should pass urine after having sex to flush out the bacteria.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about pyelonephritis. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregiver. Work with them to decide what care will be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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