What is Pyelonephritis?

Pyelonephritis is inflammation of the kidneys caused by bacteria; a kidney infection. This is a painful and uncomfortable condition that can be caused by an infection in the bladder (cystitis).

Pyelonephritis can occur at any age and is more common in women. This might be linked to the fact that a woman’s urethra is shorter, therefore making it easier for bacteria to reach the kidneys. Women that have regular sexual activity may also be at more risk.

Most people that get cystitis will not get a kidney infection, however in some cases the bacteria can travel up to one or both of the kidneys.

If pyelonephritis is treated straight away with a course of antibiotics, then it is unlikely to cause any serious harm, and will likely be gone in a few days. However, if it is left it can get worse and possibly cause damage to the kidneys.

Symptoms of a kidney infection will usually occur within a few hours. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Fever/shiver

  • Having pain in your back or sides

  • Smelly or cloudy urine

  • Blood in your urine

  • Pain or burning when urinating

  • Need to urine suddenly or more often

A kidney infection can be easily diagnosed with a urine test and an explanation of the symptoms that you are experiencing. It is likely that your GP will give you a course of antibiotics straight away to get rid of the infection and ensure that no permanent damage is done; you should be back to normal within 2 weeks.

The best way to prevent a kidney infection is to keep your bladder and urethra free from bacteria. This can be done by:

  • Drinking lots of water

  • Not holding in urine

  • Going to the toilet before and after sex

  • Wiping from front to back when you go to the toilet

  • Washing your genitals daily

  • Wearing protection during sex


This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.

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