What do my kidneys do?
Kidneys are among the body’s vital organs. Most people have two. They are bean-shaped and located on either side of the body, under the ribcage. Their purpose is to clean the body by filtering out water and waste and producing urine, which is passed through to the bladder and expelled through the urethra.
What is kidney infection and what causes it?
A kidney infection occurs when bacteria (typically E. coli), which live in the bowel, enter the urethra and travel up to the kidneys. The condition is also known as pyelonephritis and can be either acute or chronic, depending on how long it lasts.
At first the bacteria reach the bladder, where they often cause conditions such as cystitis or a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). The infection may be treated and end here, but sometimes it continues to travel up to the kidneys via one or both tubes leading up from the bladder.
How common is it?
According to the NHS, kidney infection is relatively rare, with only around 30 people out of 100,000 in the UK contracting it each year. It is, however, more common in women than men. The reason for this is that a woman’s urethra is located closer to her anus, making it easier for bacteria gathering in that area to be transferred, Bupa reports. It is also more likely to reach the bladder because the urethra is much shorter in women than in men.
Pregnant women, children under the age of 2 and people over the age of 60 are also at a higher risk of developing the illness.
Those suffering from kidney infection, may display one or more of the following symptoms:
- A high temperature/fever
- Pain the lower back (often just on one side)
According to Bupa, around 1 in 3 sufferers also have symptoms of a bladder infection (cystitis), which include:
- A need to pass urine frequently and urgently
- Burning or stinging sensation when urinating
- Blood in the urine
There are two types of kidney infection:
- Uncomplicated – when the sufferer is generally in good health and the infection is unlikely to cause any serious complications
- Complicated – when the sufferer is more vulnerable to the effects of infection, perhaps due to a pre-existing health problem
Possible complications include:
- A pocket of pus (abscess) developing in the kidney
- Swelling in the kidney
- Blood poisoning – this can happen if the bacteria causing the infection get into the blood stream
How is it treated?
If the sufferer’s kidneys functioned normally before the infection, then a simple course of antibiotics, prescribed by a doctor, is usually enough to treat the condition. Paracetamol and ibuprofen can help in reducing fever and discomfort. Drinking plenty of water is recommended.
It is important to seek the advice of your doctor if you think you may have a kidney infection.
Click here about natural remedies for treating a bladder infection.
Images: Wikimedia Commons