Antibiotics for Kidney Infections

Monday 7 September 2020
5 minute(s) read
Dr.Heather Bartlett

Medically reviewed by

Dr Heather Bartlett, MD

on 31 December 1969

Table of Contents

I. What is a Kidney Infection?

II. Symptoms of a Kidney Infection

a. UTI Symptoms

III. What Causes a Kidney Infection?

a. Risk Factors for Kidney Infections

IV. How is a Kidney Infection Treated?

a. Home Treatment

What is a Kidney Infection?

A kidney infection is a type of urinary tract infection (UTI). Kidney infections are also known as pyelonephritis and occur when bacteria or viruses cause problems within the kidneys.

The kidneys are a key part of the urinary tract. One of the main functions of the kidneys is to remove waste and water from the blood, producing urine.

Kidney infections can cause permanent damage to the kidneys when not treated promptly. Additionally, if bacterium spread from the kidneys to the bloodstream, it can result in a severe and life-threatening infection. [1] However, kidney infections can be treated using antibiotics such as Cipro (ciprofloxacin) and Proloprim (trimethoprim). You can learn more about antibiotics at RxConnected's blog and start saving on your prescriptions at the same time. 

Kidney infections are more likely to affect women than men. This is because women have a shorter urethra, which makes it easier for bacteria to travel into the body. Kidney infections are also more common in children younger than two and adults over the age of 60.


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Keep reading to learn more about kidney infections, including the symptoms, causes, and how they can be treated.

Symptoms of a Kidney Infection

There are several different symptoms of a kidney infection. Symptoms typically appear two days after infection and often will develop within a few hours. [2] [3] If you notice these kidney infection symptoms, then you should speak to your doctor as soon as possible:

  • Fever and chills
  • Feeling unwell, weak, or fatigued
  • Upset stomach or vomiting
  • Pain in the lower back, side, or groin
  • Loss of appetite [4]

A woman lying in bed, holding her head

Children and older adults may experience differing symptoms. For infants younger than two, the only symptom of a kidney infection may be a high fever. Adults above the age of 65 may show mental symptoms instead. These symptoms can include confusion or jumbled speech. [2]

a. UTI Symptoms

As well as the above symptoms, people that have a kidney infection may also have signs of a bladder or urethra UTI. Not all people that have urinary tract infections show symptoms but common symptoms include:

  • Frequent or persistent urges to urinate
  • Urination that burns or is painful
  • Urine which is brown, red, pink, or cloudy
  • Urine which smells strongly
  • Pain in the center of the pelvis or near to the pubic bone. [5]

What Causes a Kidney Infection?

Most kidney infections occur when bacteria enter the urethra and cause an infection in the bladder. This urinary tract infection can then spread to the kidneys if it is not treated promptly or effectively. These bacteria are often the bacteria E. coli that live in the bowel without causing harm. [3]

Although the majority of kidney infections result from urinary tract infections, there are other possible causes.  Kidney infections can also occur from an infection elsewhere that spreads to the kidneys through the bloodstream, following kidney surgery or from an artificial joint. [1]

a. Risk Factors for Kidney Infections

Kidney infections are more common in women due to their shorter urethra. However, kidney infections can affect anyone and there are several risk factors that can increase the risk of developing the condition.

Pregnancy: During pregnancy, the urinary tract shifts. This can make it easier for bacteria to enter the kidneys, increasing the risk of a kidney infection. [2]

A pregnant woman holding her stomach

Weakened Immune System: Medical conditions that affect the immune system can increase the risk of a UTI or kidney infection. Conditions such as diabetes, HIV, or AIDS suppress the immune system making it more difficult for the body to combat an infection.

Blocked Urinary Tract: A blockage in the urinary tract can make it more likely to develop a kidney infection. Blockages may be caused by conditions such as kidney stones, enlarged prostate gland, or an inserted medical device.

Nerve Damage: Damaged nerves around the bladder will not increase the risk of a bladder infection. However, it can suppress the sensations of a bladder infection resulting in the infection advancing towards the kidneys.

How is a Kidney Infection Treated?

Kidney infections are usually treated with antibiotics. To treat a kidney infection, antibiotics such as Cipro (ciprofloxacin) and Proloprim (trimethoprim) are typically prescribed for one or two weeks. When taking antibiotics, it is important to take the medication for the full amount of time directed by your doctor, even when symptoms improve. This can prevent the infection from surviving or returning.

A hand holding a plastic model of a kidney

When kidney infections are severe, you may need to stay in the hospital. In this case, antibiotics may be delivered through an IV (intravenous) needle. For persistent kidney infections, you may be sent to a urologist to identify any issues with your urinary tract. [4]

a. Home Treatment

As well as taking prescription medication, there are some other remedies that you can do at home to improve your condition. Drinking plenty of liquids can help prevent fever and dehydration and can help ‘flush out’ the bacteria. Getting plenty of rest can also aid recovery. Using a heating pad or placing a hot water bottle on any sensitive area may also help to relieve pain. Speak to your doctor about a suitable option as some medications may raise the risk of kidney problems. If you want to save money on your blood pressure prescription, visit our online Canadian pharmacy.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.