When you’re experiencing pain, there are often external signals that can point toward the cause. Things like fever, swelling, or discoloration of the skin make it easier for a person or their doctor to determine exactly what’s wrong.
But with some kinds of maladies, the major indicators are all on the inside, making it that much harder to make a diagnosis. In the case of a kidney infection, it can be hard to distinguish some of the symptoms from normal muscle pain.
A kidney infection, which is known medically as pyelonephritis, is when harmful bacteria somehow make their way into the kidneys. The bacteria responsible in about 90 percent of cases is Escherica coli, more commonly known as E. coli.
E. coli can be found in the colons of humans and animals as well as in their fecal matter. That bacteria can accidentally spread to the genitals through improper wiping, toilet backsplash, or during sexual intercourse.
From there, the bacterial infection can spread to one or more of the kidneys. But it’s important to note that not all kidney infections develop from a bladder infection. If a person has a weakened immune system, a kidney can become infected through the bloodstream.
That happens when a bacterial or fungal infection on the skin seeps into a person’s blood. When that blood is then processed by the kidneys, one or both of them can become infected. Once an infection has set in, it can cause serious problems.
In addition to being painful, a kidney infection that goes untreated can lead to the spread of infection to the blood and other organs, permanent damage to the affected kidneys, or even death. That’s why it’s important to identify and treat an infection as quickly as possible.
Identifying The Symptoms
To identify the symptoms, the warning signs of a kidney infection have to be made clear. Unfortunately, back pain is one of the most common symptoms, which is often confused for general back pain.
Typical Back Pain
Back pain can be caused by a number of different things, including the usual strains and sprains that damage the muscle tissue or ligaments of the back. This usually happens from lifting heavy objects, sudden and extreme movements, twisting, or some sort of impact.
Back pain of this type can come and go, depending on how the person moves or doesn’t move, as remaining in the same position for long periods of time can trigger pain. The affected area is usually tender to the touch and can be located anywhere from the upper back to the top of the muscles of the buttocks.
By contrast, the pain associated with a kidney infection is always on the lower back, concentrated in the area between the ribs and hips and can be quite intense. It can also cause pain in the upper abdomen or the genital area.
Not Affected By Movement
Kidney infection pain will generally be constant, regardless of how much the person moves. The pain may increase if a person takes in an excessive amount of fluids or when pressure is applied to the small of the back, the sides of the spine, or directly above the hips.
Back pain isn’t the only symptom for a kidney infection, though. Those suffering may also experience fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting. They may often notice that they have a strong urge to urinate more frequently than usual.
When they do use the bathroom, their urine can be darker than normal, cloudy or even reddish or pinkish from blood. If you’re experiencing some combination of these symptoms, it is best to seek medical help immediately.
If you aren’t suffering from a kidney infection, you should still know some of the factors that may increase your chances of having one. First, the odds of having a kidney infection are considerably higher for women than for men.
More Common For Women
That is because a woman’s urethra is shorter than a man’s, which makes it easier for bacteria to travel from outside the body to the bladder, and consequently, from the bladder to the kidneys. The closeness of the urethra to the vagina and anus is also a factor that increases a woman’s risk.
Having a urinary tract blockage of any kind that slows the flow of urine or reduces your ability to empty your bladder fully increases your chances of a kidney infection. That includes kidney stones, abnormalities in your urinary tract’s structure, or, for men, an enlarged prostate gland.
Suppressed Immune System
An immune system that is diminished increases the odds as well. This can be as a result of a medical condition such as diabetes or HIV. Immunosuppressive medications, typically taken to prevent the rejection of transplanted organs, have a similar effect.
Other Sources Of Risk
Using a urinary catheter tube, or having a condition that causes urine to flow the wrong way, also increases your risk. Thankfully, there are some simple steps you can take to mitigate some of the risk.
Make sure you drink plenty of fluids, most importantly water, as fluids help remove bacteria from your body when you urinate. And when you feel the urge to urinate, avoid delaying your trip to the bathroom.
Also, use the bathroom as soon as possible after intercourse. This helps clear any bacteria from the urethra, reducing your risk of infection. And when you’re finished using the bathroom after intercourse, or at any other time, wipe from front-to-back, rather than back-to-front, to prevent bacteria from spreading from the anus to the urethra.
Speak To A Doctor
Finally, for women, avoid using feminine products in the genital area. Products such as deodorant sprays or douches can cause irritation. As with all serious medical conditions, if you suspect you have a kidney infection, seek medical attention as soon as possible.