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Kidney infection (pyelonephritis) in adults: Treatment, symptoms, advice & help

About kidney infection (pyelonephritis) in adults

Kidneys are bean-shaped paired abdominal organs which carry out vital functions of the body. The kidneys are responsible for removing waste and toxins from the blood, and subsequently concentrating the remaining fluid to be excreted as urine. Pyelonephritis is a serious condition characterised by the infection of the kidneys which may lead to potentially life-threatening complications.

Kidney infection (pyelonephritis) in adults: Incidence, age and sex

Pyelonephritis can affect individuals at any age. Both children and adults are susceptible to it. Pregnant women are especially prone to developing pyelonephritis.

Signs and symptoms of kidney infection (pyelonephritis) in adults: Diagnosis

The clinical features of pyelonephritis are quite diverse and may range from mild to severe symptoms. The affected individual may present with flank pain on one or both sides associated with low backache or even suprapubic pain. High-temperature may or may not be present. Features of urinary tract infection like increased frequency, urgency, burning micturition or blood in the urine may also be present. Affected individuals may also experience nausea and fatigue.

A detailed history coupled with clinical examination usually point towards the diagnosis which may be confirmed by various diagnostic tests like blood and urine analysis. In cases where there is doubt in diagnosis, ultrasonography of the kidneys may be done.

Causes and prevention of kidney infection (pyelonephritis) in adults

Pyelonephritis is caused by bacteria, both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. A bacterial infection elsewhere in the body, can be transmitted to the kidneys through the circulatory system. Alternately, bacteria may also enter the body from outside through the urethra and travel upwards to the kidneys to cause pyelonephritis. Sometimes, an anatomical obstruction in the urinary tract may also predispose a person to pyelonephritis. Conditions like diabetes, pregnancy, sickle cell disease or immuno-compromised state carry a higher risk for developing pyelonephritis.

It is important to maintain adequate personal hygiene, especially after defaecation. Moreover strict aseptic measures should be taken while inserting urinary catheters in patients to prevent entry of any bacteria from outside.

Kidney infection (pyelonephritis) in adults: Complications

Pyelonephritis, in many instances may not present with any apparent clinical features, resulting in its late diagnosis. Therefore, any longstanding pyelonephritis has a high risk of disrupting the functions of kidney, resulting in anaemia and high blood pressure. Later complete kidney failure may follow this condition.

Kidney infection (pyelonephritis) in adults: Treatment

Timely diagnosis followed by antibiotic medication remains the mainstay of treatment of pyelonephritis. Antibiotic medication can be given orally or intravenously, depending upon the severity of the infection. It is advisable to take a 2 to 3-week antibiotic treatment. Paracetamol may be administered for fever and malaise. Surgical intervention may be needed to correct any anatomical defects causing obstruction in the urinary tract. Follow up consultation with the nephrologists is advisable to monitor recurrence.