A kidney infection is a painful condition that doesn’t go away on its own, so you must consult a doctor.
Most kidney infections, medically known as pyelonephritis, start as a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) caused by bacteria entering the body via the urethra (the tube that transports urine from the bladder to the outside of the body).
Although urine is bacteria-free when it leaves the body, many types of bacteria reside on the skin, as well as in and around the vagina and anus.
The infection starts in the urethra and, left untreated, travels upwards to infect the bladder and then upwards again to infect the kidneys.
The symptoms of a kidney infection are usually very apparent and can include:
- A frequent and urgent need to urinate – often with very little, if any urine being passed and feeling like the bladder is still full afterwards
- A burning sensation when passing urine (often described as passing razorblades!)
- Urine that is cloudy, smelly or contains traces of blood
- Abdominal pain
- Fever, nausea and vomiting
Kidney infection and incontinence
It’s the symptom of the urgent need to urinate that can lead to incontinence. Even if you usually have excellent control, can comfortably ‘hold on’ for extended periods of time and have a strong pelvic floor muscle, an infection can compromise everything.
Who gets kidney infections?
UTIs are extremely common. In fact, this medical paper claims that one in five adult women globally will experience at least one UTI in her lifetime.
Women are more susceptible due to the proximity of the urethra opening to the anus and vagina, allowing bacteria to enter. Unlike males, women’s urethra is only around 4cm long, allowing entering bacteria to get to the bladder quickly.
Having a catheter for any amount of time can make you prone to a UTI which can lead to a kidney infection, as can having a weakened immune system from conditions such as diabetes and HIV.
You must make an appointment with the doctor who will ask about your symptoms as well as take a urine sample to test for bacteria. The test is usually done at the doctor’s rooms rather than being ‘sent away’ so the result is immediate. This will confirm if there is an infection.
For adults, the treatment is typically a simple as antibiotics and paracetamol to help manage pain.
The best way to avoid kidney infection is to avoid a UTI. Although not a guarantee, these simple habits can reduce the chances of developing a UTI.
- Drink plenty of water every day. It helps flush bacteria out of the tract
- Empty your bladder when you feel the urge – don’t hang on. Try not to rush and make sure you’ve completely emptied your bladder. Some women find standing up and sitting down again can help with this
- On the toilet, always wipe from front to back
- Have a shower instead of a bath
- Urinate after sex to flush away any bacteria
- Physical contraceptives such as condoms, IUDs, spermicides and diaphragms can contribute, so if you are suffering from frequent UTIs, you might wish to discuss options with your health care professional
- Bacteria breeds best in warm, moist environments often created by synthetic fabrics and tight pants, so chose cotton underwear and looser clothing to keep the area dry and cool
You can read more about UTIs here.
In the meantime
If you have a kidney infection and are experiencing incontinence, TENA has a range of products, from liners through to pants, that are specifically designed to manage urine leakage discreetly.
If you’re not sure which product is right for you, head over to the TENA Product Finder https://www.tena.com.au/find-your-product/which will step you through your condition and suggest product choices.
You can order a free sample and products online, but chances are you’ll need something more immediate. You’ll find a good selection of TENA products is available in most major supermarkets and pharmacies.
Asaleo Care makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional, medical or other health professional advice.