Kidney infection could lead to life-threatening problems

Kidney infection, often caused by bladder contagions, must be treated immediately to avoid life-threatening problems, says a top South African urologist.

Kidneys clean waste and toxins in the blood and form part of the urinary tract which sometimes contracts bacteria, leading to possible infection or “pyelonephritis”.

Dr Hugo van der Merwe, from The Urology Hospital, Pretoria, says kidney infections, usually caused by problems in the urinary tract, must be treated right away: “See your doctor or a urologist immediately to avoid complications such as blood poisoning (sepsis) or severe kidney damage which can sometimes be life threatening,” he said.

Just as women get more bladder infections than men, so do they get more kidney infections. This is because a women’s urethra is shorter than a man’s and closer to the vagina and anus where bacteria live. Pregnant women are also more likely to get infections as the baby can put pressure on a woman’s ureter and slow the flow of urine.

Other causes include having a urinary catheter, kidney stones, an enlarged prostate and weak immunity.

Symptoms of kidney infection:

  • Pain in the back, groin and side
  • Nausea, vomiting or an upset stomach
  • Fever and chills, weakness and loss of appetite
  • Similar symptoms as with bladder infection such as burning and frequent urinating

Treatment ranges from antibiotics for the milder cases or hospitalisation in severe cases. If kidney infections recur regularly, surgery may be required, said Dr van der Merwe.

For a full urology examination, contact The Urology Hospital on 012 423 4069 or visit


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