Kidney infections are a common disease impacting a variety of age groups. These infections typically occur in females more frequently than males. It is estimated that in any given year, there are 1 in 7 people with kidney infections. Thankfully, these tend to be treatable infections that are cleared up within a week. The importance of getting treated promptly is a major factor in determining the severity of the infection. We will discuss how you may know you have a kidney infection, and what to be on the lookout for.
What is a kidney infection?
When someone mentions the term “kidney infection,” it is exactly what it sounds like; an infection of the kidney. However, the kidney makes up only a part of the urinary tract. The urinary tract consists of the kidney, ureter, bladder, and urethra. Any of these parts can become infected, which is thereby broadly termed a “urinary tract infection.” In order to be more specific, however, it is important to specify which part of the tract is infected. The signs and symptoms of the infection can be fluid, and multiple areas can be infected at the same time. For clarity, we will specifically be referring to a “kidney infection” in today’s article.
How does my kidney become infected?
There are a variety of ways that a kidney can become infected. For example, various bacteria can ascend through your urinary tract, and settle in your kidney. At this point, they may begin multiplying, thereby activating your body’s immune system as it responds to the infection. Alternatively, if a blockage occurs within the kidney or ureter, there is a backup in urine. This urine then becomes unable to bypass the blockage and becomes a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Finally, if there are bacteria in the blood, due to an infection from somewhere else in the body, these bacteria can then get lodged in the kidney. Ultimately, how the kidney becomes infected may be of limited importance. More importantly, it is imperative to realize that the infection exists, for you to receive the proper treatment.
How can I tell that my kidney is infected?
Since your kidney is such a critical part of your body’s overall function, when it is infected, you will develop a variety of symptoms. Since an infection causes your immune system to become activated, you may develop fever, chills, and general malaise. These symptoms are not exclusive to a kidney infection, so it is important to also consider symptoms that are more specific to your kidney. These include, but are not limited to, pain while peeing, increased frequency of peeing, and pain in your lower back. Depending on the extent of the infection, you may also have more severe symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, belly pain, or foul-smelling urine.
What should I do if I think I have a kidney infection?
These symptoms can be concerning and cause discomfort in your day-to-day living. If you suspect that you may have a kidney infection, make an appointment with your primary care physician, or visit your local urgent care / ER. Once there, your provider will take a history to understand what is going on, perform a physical exam, and ultimately order tests to evaluate for the presence of bacteria in your urine. If you are diagnosed with a kidney infection, they will prescribe you antibiotics, which should help clear up your infection.
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