Last updated: December 1, 2017

Kidney Infection Symptoms

Kidney infection symptoms: An overview

Kidney infection symptoms depend upon the type and extent of infection. Kidney infection is a part of a broader category of infection that we commonly refer to as urinary infection or urinary tract infection ( UTI ). Urinary infection includes bladder infection, kidney infection and widespread infection with sepsis. Kidney infection symptoms depend upon the age and overall health of the patient. I have compiled a comprehensive list of all possible urinary infection symptoms. I have personally encountered all of the 20 symptoms in my practice. However, a single patient will not have all 20 symptoms of UTI.

This list of 20 urinary tract infection symptoms includes all degree of infection from very mild infection to severe life treating infection:

  1. Frequent urination
  2. Burning sensation while urinating
  3. Pain with urination
  4. Feeling of incomplete bladder evacuation
  5. Pain in lower mid abdomen
  6. Pain on your side
  7. Pain under your lower ribs
  8. Pain in your left or right back
  9. Headaches
  10. Fevers and chills
  11. Nausea and vomiting
  12. Bloody urine
  13. Foul smelling urine
  14. Weakness
  15. Low energy
  16. Dizziness and lightheadedness
  17. Fast heart beat
  18. Low blood pressure
  19. Confusion or agitation
  20. Fainting

Urinary infection: A review of urinary tract anatomy

Kidney-infection-symptoms

Image courtesy of: National Kidney & Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC)


The two kidneys have their own collecting tubes called ureters. Each of these tubes come down and empty urine in the urinary bladder. The urinary bladder then drains the urine out from a single tube called the urethra. It is the opening of the urethra where the urine comes out from. Urinary tract infection symptoms may come from infection in the kidneys themselves but may also come from the ureters, the bladder or the urethra. Urinary tract infection symptoms starting from these different anatomic locations may have slightly different presentations.

Kidney infection symptoms are a part of urinary tract infection symptoms. In other words, all kidney infection symptoms are urinary tract infection symptoms but not all urinary tract infection symptoms are kidney infection symptoms.

Bladder infection

Most urinary infections usually start as bladder infection. Bladder infection is also called cystitis. Normally kidney infection symptoms from pure cystitis (only involving the urinary bladder) are less severe than actual infection of the kidneys. Bladder infection symptoms are usually limited to the lower urinary tract. Lower urinary tract infection symptoms include local symptoms such as pain and burning with urination. Frequent need for urination may be one of the first signs of bladder infection.

Lower UTI symptoms in men could be similar to symptoms of enlarged prostate. Bladder infection symptoms in women could be similar to symptoms of overactive bladder.

Bladder infection symptoms in both men and women could be confused with symptoms of bladder cancer. If your bladder infection symptoms do not go away long after taking antibiotics for UTI, you have to think about the possibility of other urinary bladder problems including bladder cancer, and seek help from a specialist. It is particularly true if your urine remains dark and bloody for weeks. Those are very worrisome warning signs of bladder cancer.

How to treat bladder infection?

Antibiotics for bladder infection are usually prescribed in pill forms. After you get diagnosed with a bladder infection, you can take antibiotics for urine infection at home as prescribed by your doctor.

Bladder infection can climb up your urinary tract as the infection spreads. When the infection gets to your ureters, it is called ureteritis. As the infection reaches to one or both of your kidneys, it is called pyelonephritis(actual kidney infection). Actual kidney infection ( pyelonephritis ) symptoms may overlap with symptoms of ureteritis and cystitis.

Actual Kidney infection symptoms (Pyelonephritis)

Patients with actual kidney infection symptoms appear sicker than other types of urinary tract infection. In addition to usual back pain and fever they may have severe generalized weakness, nausea, vomiting and dehydration. Many patients with kidney infection symptoms have a rapid progression of disease. They may not have early signs of bladder infection or their symptoms of early stages of UTI may be too mild to notice. When the infection gets to kidneys and becomes pyelonephritis, they have abrupt onset of kidney infection symptoms. Back pain could be severe. It could be located just under the lower ribs on one side. The sharp main may radiate upward to the chest and may be perceived as chest pain. This type of kidney infection chest pain is usually worse with breathing and may be confused with lung problems.

Kidney infection symptoms in elderly can be particularly hard to recognize. Elderly people may not have early signs of a UTI and they may suddenly become confused or agitated. They may become too weak to walk. Elderly people who are brought to the hospital after a fall are frequently diagnosed with UTI.

Kidney infection symptoms in men are not that much different from kidney infection symptoms in women. However, urine infection symptoms in women are more common because they have a shorter urinary tract. That makes it easier for the bladder infection to climb up the urinary tract in women.

Kidney infection may also complicate kidney stones. Kidney infection in men with enlarged prostate may also result from obstruction of the flow of urine. In women, kidney stones in certain locations can similarly obstruct the flow of urine. Whenever there is any obstruction in normal flow of urine, E. Coli and other bacteria can multiply and cause urinary tract infection, including kidney infection.

Patients with severe symptoms of kidney infection may need hospital admission. Routine antibiotics for UTI in pill forms are usually not effective in very sick patients. UTI bacteria resistant to antibiotics are common in hospitalized patients. To get rid of the kidney infection, these patients require IV antibiotics. Best antibiotic for UTI in this situation is selected based on susceptibility pattern of common bacteria in that particular institution. High fever along with nausea and vomiting may cause dehydration. These patients also need IV fluids to treat the dehydration.

Kidney infection symptoms: Learn from the real patients

Like many other diseases discussed here, kidney infection symptoms in a particular patient depends upon the overall health and age of the patient. That is why you have to really understand the circumstances under which the patient develops the kidney infection to predict which particular symptoms that patient will have. You can read some stories of real patients who had different types of urinary infection symptoms. When you read these stories and understand how kidney infection symptoms is diagnosed and treated in real life, you will get a better practical knowledge.

Click the following link to read a real story of kidney infection symptoms in an actual patient:

Symptoms of kidney infection in women: A 25 year old otherwise healthy female patient