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Pyelonephristis: A Serious Effect Associated With Urinary Tract Infection


Many people are familiar with urinary tract infections. It is a common condition and relatively straightforward in its treatment. A lesser known aspect of these infections, however, is pyelonephritis, an extension of the infection into the kidneys.

The urinary tract is a system for you to remove waste from the body. The kidneys filter the blood and remove materials, creating urine. This travels down the ureters from each kidney and is stored in the bladder before being eliminated through the urethra. Despite the negative connotations associated with waste, typical urine is sterile. No other microorganisms such as bacteria should be present. Issues may arise, however, when the flow of urine is disrupted. If there is any defect anywhere in the urinary tract or blockage of the tract by, for example, kidney stones or a swollen prostate, the interruption of the flow of urine may facilitate the growth of bacteria. A urinary tract infection then occurs, typically for the bladder. If the usual perpetrator, the bacteria E. coli, begins to migrate upward and reaches the kidney, then the condition is pyelonephritis.

Patients who have pyelonephritis may have fever or chills, and nausea and vomiting may also occur. Pain in the lower back and along the side flanks as well as the groin area may indicate an infection in the urinary tract. Painful urination may also be an issue, as well as traces of blood or pus. Patients may have some or all of these symptoms. A urine test may be used to diagnose pyelonephritis, but other types of scans may also be used.

Treatment usually involves a strong antibiotic that can properly affect the kidneys and can kill the infecting bacteria. Of course, any issues with improper urinary tract function must also be treated, possibly by a urologist, to prevent the infection from rearising. A painkiller may also be used to ease the discomfort of swollen kidneys. There is nothing too complicated about this affliction, but repeated bouts may cause permanent kidney damage and scarring. Patients usually do not get it through any fault of their own, but care can be taken when in environments such as public restrooms.

Prepared by Kevin Lin, UT-Austin Pre-Medical Student
Reviewed by Muhammad Emran, MD

1 Comment

  1. […] Pyelonephristis: A Serious Effect Associated With Urinary Tract Infection […]

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