What are the causes of kidney infection?

Causes of kidney infection are numerous but the most common cause is bacterial invasion of the kidneys.

Infection occurs when bacteria, usually from the digestive tract, cling to the opening of the urethra and eventually travels to the kidneys.

Most infections are caused by the Escherichia (E. coli) bacteria, which normally live in the colon.

When bacteria infect the kidneys and cause inflammation, it is medically known as pyelonephritis (PI-low-nef-ri-tis). This is the most common form of kidney disease.

It can be sudden (acute) or long-term (chronic). Acute uncomplicated pyelonephritis is the sudden development of kidney inflammation. Chronic pyelonephritis is a long-standing infection.

While bacterial invasion of the kidneys is one of the most common causes of kidney infection, there are other conditions which can cause kidney infections. These include the following:

  • Obstruction (such as kidney stone) that interferes with the flow of urine. An obstruction can cause pressure to build-up within the kidneys, which can cause kidney damage (leading to kidney failure). It can also cause stagnation of the urine, which can lead to infection;

  • Urine stagnation, due to conditions such as kidney stones or prostate enlargement, increases the risk of infection;

  • Not drinking enough fluids not only increases the risk of kidney stones and other diseases, but can also result in kidney infection;

  • Diseases, such as kidney reflux, which cause urine to flow backwards through the ureters and upwards into the kidneys, can cause kidney infection. This not only puts pressure on the kidneys but any bacteria, which may have been in the backed-up urine can cause infection;

  • Pregnancy can increase the risk of infection. As the fetus develops, it places pressure on the bladder and urethra, which can affect the free flow of urine, resulting in infection. Also, hormones released during pregnancy (namely progesterone) increase the risk of infection;

  • Other diseases that compromise the immune system (such as diabetes), can contribute to kidney infection. When the immune system is impaired the risk of all types of infections increases, since the body cannot effectively fight off bacteria and other disease-causing agents.

Symptoms of kidney infection

Symptoms of kidney infection can be quite severe, depending on the stage of the infection. Early sign are usually mild, but symptoms tend to progress very quickly. When the disease is in an advanced stage, patients may experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • spiking fever,
  • chills,
  • lower back pain,
  • vomiting,
  • upset stomach,
  • a constant need to urinate, or
  • an inability to urinate at all,
  • blood in the urine,
  • pain or a burning sensation during urination.

There may also be tenderness on physical examination, which is manifested by pain in the area of the kidneys.

Treatment of kidney infection

If left untreated, for an extended period of time, kidney infection can scar the kidneys and impair kidney function. The earlier this disease is treated, the better the chances of full recovery. The most common treatment of kidney infection involves the use of antibiotics. This is normally one of the first medications prescribed by a doctor, for the treatment of kidney infection. Antibiotics may not, however, be suitable for everyone, since they can cause allergic reactions in some people.

If you have trouble breathing or develop severe swelling after taking your medicine, you should contact you doctor immediately. This may be a sign that you are allergic to it.

In addition to antibiotics, patients should ensure that they are getting adequate amounts of essential nutrients to build or boost their immune system... it is the body's first line of defense against infections. If the immune system functions as it should then it might be able to fight off the bacteria that causes kidney infections.

While bacteria are the most common causes of kidney infection, impaired immune system may be the reason why the bacteria are able to flourish. While conditions such as pregnancy, diabetes, cancer, kidney stones, and abnormalities of the urinary tract can lower the body's ability to fight off the bacteria that cause kidney infections, having a strong immune system is the most effective defense against this disease.

Also, drinking adequate amounts of water (and other fluids) can be a simple but effective treatment of kidney infection. Water is an essential component of urine formation, which helps to flush out the urinary system and remove toxins and waste products from the body. Water also helps to prevent the formation of kidney stones, which can cause blockage of the urinary system and result in kidney infection.

Apart from a deficient immune system, failure to drink adequate amounts of water on a daily basis is one of the leading causes of kidney infection. By simply drinking enough water every day can help to minimize the risk of developing kidney infections.