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Symptoms of Kidney Infection

The symptoms of kidney infection can be painful and extremely dangerous.

Lower back pain is a common symptom of kidney infection. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Lower back pain is a common symptom of kidney infection.

Every year millions of Americans, particularly women, suffer urinary tract infections. These infections, which occur when bacteria gets into the urinary tract, cause annoying and sometimes painful symptoms. Though urinary tract infections usually are confined to the bladder, they occasionally travel through the tract into the kidneys, causing a far more serious infection. If you suffer from urinary tract infections, it's important to recognize the symptoms of kidney infection.

The kidneys, small bean-shaped organs located on either side of the mid-back, have one of the most important tasks in the whole body. Besides regulating blood acidity and water volume, the kidneys filter impurities out of the bloodstream. Many of these impurities, such as urea and ammonia, are sent to the bladder through tubes called ureters to be removed as urine.

Symptoms of Kidney Infection

Due to the kidneys' important role in the urinary tract, it's not surprising that a number of kidney infection symptoms are related to urination. Some of these symptoms include difficulty or painful urinating and an increased need to urinate at night. Also, blood in the urine, cloudy urine or particularly strong-smelling urine, could signal a kidney infection. Other symptoms of kidney infections include back pain, flank or side pain, abdominal pain, and fever.

If the kidney infection is left untreated, more severe symptoms can develop. Symptoms of severe kidney infection include chills, night sweats, high fever, nausea, vomiting and even mental confusion.

Kidney Infection Causes and Treatment

There are a number of causes of kidney infections. Most of the time, kidney infections are caused by an infection of the urinary tract. Sometimes, though, kidney infections can be caused by another infection in the body or, in rare cases, as a result of kidney surgery. Other causes of kidney infection are catheter use, urinary tract surgery and kidney stones.

Anyone experiencing symptoms of kidney infection should see a doctor as soon as possible. The doctor will most likely take a urinalysis to determine if there are red or white blood cells in the urine; additionally, he or she will check for the presence of bacteria. A blood culture can also be done to check for signs of infection. If you have chronic kidney problems, the doctor may order a renal scan or renal ultrasound to determine if there are underlying abnormalities causing the infection.

Identifying kidney infection symptoms and getting treatment is vital. Most kidney infections can be treated effectively with antibiotics, but left untreated, kidney infections can cause serious, permanent damage. Even more dangerous, untreated kidney infections can lead to septicemia, a poisoning of the blood that can be fatal.

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