Kidney infections are also called pyelonephritis. They can be acute or chronic. There is also reflux nephropathy, which occurs when the flow of urine is obstructed and causes a kidney infection. Most of the time, infections are the result of an untreated urinary tract infection that travels up the urinary tract into the kidneys.
Kidney infections are serious and need to be treated. Left untreated, they can cause permanent damage to the kidneys and ultimately, kidney failure. Treatment usually consists of a course of antibiotics, although there are alternative ways to treat them. You can prevent kidney infections by drinking plenty of water and promptly treating any urinary tract infection you might have.
Most people with kidney infections have at least two symptoms. They can range from mild to severe. Symptoms include fever and chills, pain in the flanks, painful urination, cloudy urine, and a frequent urge to urinate while being unable to pass much urine. You may also have abdominal pain and nausea or vomiting.
Urine is normally sterile, meaning it does not contain bacteria. However, bacteria can enter the urethra and travel up the urinary tract to the kidneys and cause infection. E coli is the most common cause of kidney infections. This type of bacteria is normally present in the digestive tract. You may be at increased risk for kidney infection if you have recurrent urinary tract infections or when the infection is caused by an aggressive type of bacteria.