Your body has two kidneys one on each side of your abdomen. Each kidney makes urine, which then drains down the ureter's and into the bladder. The bladder then stores the urine until you pass it through the urethra when you go to the toilet.
What is a kidney infection?
Kidney infection or pyelonephritis as it's medically known is an infection of one or both kidneys. Kidney infections can develop at any age and are usually more common in women.
What is a kidney stone?
Stones can form in any part of the urinary tract and are quite common. Kidney stones can vary greatly in size from the size of a grain of sand to a pearl or even larger. They are often painless when in the kidney but can cause severe pain when they pass from the kidneys to the bladder.
What causes kidney infections?
Kidney infections develop when bacteria from the bladder travels up the kidneys, this can happen when you have cystitis, although most people who have cystitis will not get a kidney infection. A kidney infection that develops without a bladder infection can be caused by kidney stones or a blockage in one of the ureters. Occasionally bacteria can reach the kidneys from the bloodstream.
What causes kidney stones?
The cause of most stones is usually unknown though certain factors such as a family history, taking certain medications or having only 1 kidney may mean you are more likely to get a kidney stone. 80% of kidney stones are caused by calcium stones. A diet high in calcium and oxalate can make it more likely for stones to form. Medical conditions such as kidney disease are also factors that can cause calcium stones to develop.
Around 10% of stones are caused by magnesium and the waste product ammonia, these are known as struvite stones and are usually formed after long term urinary tract infections. The other type of stone is a uric acid stone and is caused by too much acid in your urine. This type is more common if you have had chemotherapy or if you eat a lot of meat.
What symptoms are linked with kidney infections?
The following are symptoms that you may get with a kidney infection, you may not have all these symptoms, some people with a kidney infection will just feel generally unwell.
- A dull ache or pain in the lower back or abdomen.
- Pain when passing urine.
- Feeling of wanting to pass urine more often than usual and yet having very little urine to pass.
- Urine may be dark or cloudy and contain blood.
- A high temperature, fever and shivering
- Foul smelling urine.
- Nausea or vomiting.
People who continue to get kidney infections may develop chronic pyelonephritis. However, this usually only happens if you have another underlying kidney problem such as large kidney stones.