This week at London Doctors Clinic, we’re focusing on one important organ in particular: the kidneys. Whether you have one, two, or three of these little organs (in the case of people who’ve received a kidney transplant), it’s really important to make sure they’re as healthy as possible. We talk you through the first signs that something is awry with your kidneys, and the simple tests that can be done at any of our private GP clinics to determine the health of your kidneys.
What Is A Kidney Infection?
A kidney infection, or pyelonephritis, is a type of urinary tract infection (UTI). It is usually caused by bacteria, and while it is often straightforward to treat, it can be quite a serious infection and can cause complications. For these reasons, it is important to understand the infection and recognise the symptoms to look out for.
Symptoms Of Kidney Infections
Common symptoms of a kidney infection include having a very high fever, feeling sick and generally unwell, and back or side pain.
Other symptoms can include:
- Pain on urination
- Urinating more frequently than usual
- Blood in the urine
Moreover, elderly people and very young children may not have any specific symptoms of a kidney infection. Instead, young children may only have a high temperature, and elderly people may become very confused and disorientated.
The kidneys are a major suspect when investigating sudden-onset disorientation in the elderly, as older people develop UTIs, and therefore kidney infections, more often.
If you find yourself urinating more frequently than usual, you might be suffering from a kidney infection
Causes Of Kidney Infections
A UTI occurs when bacteria are able to enter and reproduce in the urinary tract. This usually happens when the bacteria enter the urethra, which can happen during sex or when wiping your bottom after going to the toilet.
As the bacteria reproduce, they can travel up the urethra and into the bladder, and it is at this point that symptoms usually start. This is called cystitis and is the most common type of UTI. In this case, the bacteria do not usually travel any further.
Sometimes however, the bacteria are able to spread further up the urinary tract and reach the kidneys, infecting them and causing pyelonephritis.
While there are other causes of kidney infection, such as bacteria spreading from the skin through the blood, these usually only happen in people with weakened immune systems and are relatively rare.
Who Is At Risk of Kidney Infections?
As with all UTIs, women are much more at risk than men, although it is possible for both men and women to develop pyelonephritis.
There are also a number of factors that can increase the risk of all UTIs, including kidney infections:
- Having a blockage of the urinary tract – for example kidney stones or an enlarged prostate
- Having a weakened immune system – such as after chemotherapy to treat cancer
- Being female and sexually active
- Being male and having unprotected anal sex
- Having a catheter in place – a plastic hollow tube that is inserted into the bladder to help urination
- Being born with an abnormality of the urinary tract – a condition called vesicoureteral reflux can cause recurrent UTIs in children
Kidney Infection Diagnosis And Treatment
Your doctor will usually diagnose pyelonephritis based on your symptoms, and by taking a urine sample. The doctor can then perform urinalysis to look for white blood cells (cells that fight infection), and markers of bacteria in the urine that indicate an infection. This can be done immediately during your private GP consultation at LDC, as all our clinics are equipped with urinalysis equipment.
Your doctor may also send your urine to a lab where the bacteria can be grown and tested for their sensitivity to different antibiotics.
Antibiotics are used to treat a kidney infection, and your doctor will prescribe either a one or two week course of these. This is enough to treat the majority of infections, but in severe cases you may be admitted to hospital for more intensive treatment and monitoring.
In addition to antibiotics you can take paracetamol to lower your fever and help the pain, and you should drink plenty of liquid to stay hydrated.
Some people think that drinking cranberry juice helps, but there is little evidence for this.
While some people believe that drinking cranberry juice is beneficial when you have a kidney infection, there is little evidence for this
Kidney Infection Complications
Rarely, a kidney infection can cause complications such as scarring of the kidney, chronic kidney disease and even kidney failure. You don’t have to fully understand these conditions to understand their severity.
It is also possible for the infection to spread to the blood (a condition known as sepsis), which can be very dangerous. For these reasons, it is important to be vigilant for this potentially serious condition, and don’t hesitate to visit your GP if you think you have the symptoms of a kidney infection.
So there you have it – the first of our kidney conditions to watch out for. If you were to experience symptoms of kidney infections, do not hesitate in seeking medical advice, such as our same-day doctor appointments at London Doctors Clinic! We can test and diagnose in-house, and our clinic pharmacies even stock a wide range of antibiotics for a fully comprehensive, convenient service! Simply choose your most convenient London clinic to book today!
By Hugh Johnson