Pyelonephritis is a type of kidney infection that develops secondary to a severe urinary tract infection. When bacteria travel up the urinary tract and reach the kidneys, a number of different symptoms can develop. The most common pyelonephritis symptoms include difficulties urinating, back and abdominal pain, nausea, and fever. It is essential to visit a doctor at the first signs of pyelonephritis or a urinary tract infection to prevent permanent kidney damage and other severe health complications. In most cases, pyelonephritis symptoms can be alleviated with prescription antibiotics.
The first noticeable pyelonephritis symptoms are usually similar to those experienced with bladder infections and kidney stones. People often have painful, burning urination and decreased urinary output. Frequent, immediate urges to urinate are also common. Some patients have noticeable hematuria, or blood in the urine, and the stream may have a very foul, strong odor.
As a kidney infection worsens, a person can experience additional pyelonephritis symptoms. Sharp, shooting pains in the lower back and side can be debilitating in some cases, and they often result in sudden bouts of nausea and vomiting. Fever and chills are common within a few days, and other flu-like symptoms such as joint pain can occur. If pyelonephritis goes untreated, the infection may cause permanent tissue scarring that can lead to kidney failure. Bacteria that build up in the kidneys and damage tissue can also enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body, which can result in potentially fatal heart, brain, or lung complications.
A person who believes he or she is experiencing mild pyelonephritis symptoms should schedule an appointment with a doctor, while severe pain and other problems need to be addressed at the emergency room. A physician can evaluate the patient's symptoms, review his or her medical history, and collect blood and urine samples for laboratory testing. Test results can confirm hematuria and help the doctor identify specific bacterial pathogens.
Most instances of pyelonephritis can be relieved with oral antibiotics, rest, and a healthy diet. If a patient is in severe pain, he or she may need to receive intravenous antibiotics and fluids in the hospital. Surgery may be necessary to repair kidney tissue if medications do not relieve symptoms. Patients who are treated for pyelonephritis are also given information to help them prevent recurring infections. Maintaining good personal hygiene, urinating more frequently, and drinking a lot of water are important to promote healthier kidney and urinary tract functioning.