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Kidney Infection

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What is a kidney infection?

A kidney infection, or pyelonephritis, is a bacterial infection. The infection usually starts in your bladder or urethra and moves into your kidney. One or both kidneys may be infected.

Kidney, Ureters, Bladder

What increases my risk for a kidney infection?

  • A history of urinary tract infections
  • An indwelling urinary catheter
  • Blocked urine flow or urine that flows backward from your urethra
  • Pregnancy
  • Medical conditions such as diabetes or kidney stones

What are the signs and symptoms of a kidney infection?

  • Pain in your abdomen, lower back, or sides
  • Pain or burning when you urinate
  • A sudden strong urge to urinate or urinating more often than usual
  • Cloudy or bloody urine
  • Fever, chills, and fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting

How is a kidney infection diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and if you have other health conditions. Blood and urine tests will show infection. An ultrasound may be done to show an infection, abscess, or other problems in your kidneys.

How is a kidney infection treated?

  • Antibiotics treat your bacterial 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. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and 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 younger than 6 months without direction from a healthcare provider.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask how to take this medicine safely.
  • 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.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Drink liquids as directed. You may need to drink extra liquids to help flush your kidneys and urinary system. Water is the best liquid to drink. Ask your healthcare provider 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 seek immediate care?

  • You have a fever and chills.
  • You cannot stop vomiting.
  • You have severe pain in your abdomen, lower back, or sides.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You continue to have a fever after you take antibiotics for 3 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.

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 healthcare providers 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.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.