Last updated: March 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 urine infection or urinary tract infection. Urine 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 urine 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 kidney infection.
The 20 of symptoms of urinary tract infection includes all degree of infection from very mild infection to severe life treating infection.

List of twenty symptoms of Urinary tract infection (including kidney 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

Urine 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 drain the urine out from a single tube called the urethra. It is the opening of the urethra where the urine comes out from. Kidney infection symptoms may come from infection in the kidneys themselves but kidney infection symptoms may come from the ureters, the bladder or the urethra. Kidney infection symptoms starting from these different anatomic locations may have slightly different presentation.

Bladder infection:

Most urine 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(UTI) symptoms include local symptoms such as pain and burning with urination. Lower UTI symptoms in men could be similar to symptoms of enlarged prostate. Lower UTI 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 bladder cancer and seek help from a specialist. It is particularly true if your urine remain dark and bloody for weeks. Those are very worrisome warning sign of bladder cancer.

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 feel the beginning stages of UTI and they may suddenly become confused or agitated. They may become too weak to walk. Elderly people 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, Kidney infection is more common in women because they have a shorter urinary tract. That makes it easier for the bladder infection to climb up the urinary tract in women.

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. To get rid of the kidney infection, these patients require IV antibiotics. High fever along with nausea and vomiting may cause dehydration. These patients also need IV fluids to treat the dehydration.

Kidney infection may also complicate kidney stones. In men with enlarged prostate, kidney infection may 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.

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 urine 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.

Here are some of the stories from my real patients:

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