Anyone can get kidney infections, but just as women get more bladder infections than men, they also get more kidney infections. Being that the urinary tract is made up of your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra, if any of these get bacteria in them, you can develop a more serious problem: a kidney infection.
It’s imperative to have a kidney infection treated right away, as failing to do so can result in life-threatening problems. The following article will explain how a kidney infection starts, how to know if you have one, and the proper treatment and recovery time.
What are the Kidneys?
The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs that are found in all vertebrates. They are located at the back of the abdominal cavity, with one kidney on each side of the spine. Due to the asymmetry caused by the liver, the right kidney is generally smaller than the left, with each kidney weighing 125 to 170 grams in males and 115 to 155 grams in females.
What is the Role of the Kidneys?
Although the kidneys are small organs, they receive up to 25 percent of the heart’s output. This is why the kidneys have been regarded as important organs as they help maintain the body’s internal balance, including blood pressure. One of the major roles of the kidneys is to remove toxins from the body.
The kidneys do this by eliminating waste products by expelling them into the urine. Two of the major compounds that are removed are uric acid from the breakdown of nucleic acids and urea, which is produced by the breakdown of proteins. Another function of the kidneys includes reabsorbing nutrients and transporting them to where they are needed.
This is called reabsorption and not absorption because the compounds have already been absorbed once, normally in the intestines. Reabsorbed products include amino acids, glucose, bicarbonate, sodium, water, phosphate, chloride, sodium, magnesium and potassium ions. The kidneys are also responsible for maintaining pH balance.
In humans, acceptable pH levels are between 7.38 and 7.42. — anything below this means the body will enter a state of acidemia and alkalemia. Outside this range, proteins and enzymes will break down but no longer function, and in extreme cases, it can lead to death. The kidneys are vital for helping keep a stable pH within the human body and if these functions are disrupted, kidney infection can occur.
A kidney infection, also known as renal infection or pyelonephritis, is a common type of urinary tract infection (UTI) that affects mostly women. The most commonly affected are pregnant women, children under two years old, and those over 60 years old. Kidney infections occur in approximately three to four men in every 10,000 and 15 to 17 women in every 10,000.
How to Know if You Have a Kidney Infection
When someone has a kidney infection, symptoms usually develop quickly, sometimes within a day or even a few hours. Common symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, uncontrollable shivering, back pain, vomiting, pain in the groin, pain in the side, and pain during urination. If there is a corresponding bladder infection, the patient may experience blood in the urine, cloudy urine, pain or difficulty while urinating, frequent urination, and pain in the lower abdomen.
A doctor will check the patient’s blood pressure, temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate to determine their general state of health. The doctor will also check for signs of dehydration and a physical exam will be carried out which emphasis on the mid and lower back. The reason for this is to determine if there is any sensitivity, tenderness or pain in the area.
Diagnosing a Kidney Infection
If the patient is a young woman, the doctor may also perform a pelvic exam to verify if there is any pelvic inflammatory disease. Additionally, if the woman is of childbearing age, a pregnancy test may be performed. A urine test can also determine the presence of a UTI, however, a urine test that detects an infection will help the doctor reach a diagnosis.
Types of Kidney Infection
There are two types of kidney infection: uncomplicated and complicated. With an uncomplicated kidney infection, the patient is healthy and serious complications are highly unlikely. But with a complicated kidney infection, the patient is more likely to suffer complications, possibly due to a pre-existing illness or condition.
Kidney infection can be treated at home or in a hospital and the method of treatment will depend on several factors. The first is the severity of the symptoms and the patient’s general state of health. Home treatment consists of taking prescribed oral antibiotics, in which finishing the treatment and complying with the doctor’s instructions are necessary.
Consuming enough fluids will also help prevent fever and dehydration. Fluid intake recommendations may vary depending on the type of infection. The doctor may also prescribe an analgesic if there is any pain, and the patient should start to feel better after a few days. The following factors are more likely to lead to treatment being administered in a hospital …
Hospitalization for Kidney Infection
Hospitalization is necessary for a kidney infection if the patient is pregnant, in severe pain, over the age of 60, has diabetes, HIV, cancer, a history of a kidney infection, a blockage in the kidneys, or sickle cell anemia. During hospitalization, if a patient suffers from dehydration, fluids may be administered with a drip. Subsequent urine and blood tests will tell the doctor how effective the treatment has been and most cases of hospitalization don’t last more than three to seven days.
If a kidney infection is not treated quickly, there is a risk for serious complications. Emphysematous pyelonephritis, is a very rare, potentially fatal complication in which kidney tissues are destroyed at a rapid pace. The bacteria that causes the infection releases a toxic gas that builds inside the kidney causing fever, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and confusion.
Another complication is kidney abscess, which is when pus accumulates inside the kidney tissues. Symptoms of this include weight loss, blood in the urine, and abdominal pain. Sometimes surgery is needed to drain out the pus. A third complication is blood poisoning or sepsis, which is a rare but life-threatening complication. Sepsis leads to bacteria spreading from the kidneys into the bloodstream, resulting in infections in any part of the body.
A kidney infection is something to be taken seriously, as it’s caused by bacteria entering the urethra and reproducing in the bladder, triggering an infection. The infection then spreads to the kidneys and there are a number of ways this can happen. One of the ways is through toilet hygiene.
After going to the bathroom and using toilet paper to clean the anus, there may be contact with the genitals which can result in an infection getting through and working its way up to the kidneys. The infection can also enter via the anus where bacteria will occupy the colon and eventually cause a kidney infection.
Causes of Kidney Infection
Another cause of a kidney infection is a kidney stone. People with kidney stones have a higher risk of developing kidney infection since kidney stones are the result of a buildup of dissolved minerals on the inner linings of the kidneys. Also, women who are sexually active have a higher risk if sexual intercourse irritates the urethra, causing bacteria to get inside the urinary tract and reach the kidneys.
Preventing a Kidney Infection
Men with an enlarged prostate have a higher risk of developing kidney infections as do some patients with weakened immune systems. However, a kidney infection is usually the result of a pre-existing infection in the urinary tract. The best way to prevent this from developing is by not having bacteria in the urethra or bladder.
Methods of Prevention
One way to avoid a kidney infection is by practicing proper toilet hygiene. After passing stools, wipe the anus from the front to back as this will lessen the risk of spreading bacteria to the genitals. Urinating after sexual intercourse also helps as well as washing the genitals before and after intercourse. Drinking plenty of fluids is a good method of prevention as well as eating plenty of fiber so that stools come out easily and do not irritate or cause skin lesions. Constipation increases the risk of developing a kidney infection.