Pyelonephritis: Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson briefly defines and explains pyelonephritis. Learn about this condition's numerous signs and symptoms and its most important treatment option, antibiotics.

Pyelonephritis

When you think of a urinary tract infection, what do you think of? Most people probably think of a bladder infection. And that is one kind of urinary tract infection. Of course, the urinary system is composed of more than just the bladder.

It's the kidneys that produce urine, and they can be infected as well. A kidney infection is more technically called pyelonephritis. 'Pyelo-' refers to the renal pelvis, '-nephr-' refers to a kidney and '-itis' refers to inflammation. The renal pelvis collects the urine produced by the kidneys and funnels it into the tube-like portion of the ureter, which is a structure that sends the urine to the bladder.

Let's explore the signs, symptoms and treatments of pyelonephritis.

Signs & Symptoms

For this lesson, we're going to pretend you're a physician. We'll call you Dr. Nephros. What signs and symptoms would you expect in a person with pyelonephritis, Dr. Nephros?

Classically, you'd expect the following:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fever
  • Flank or back pain

This doesn't mean you'll see all three or all three at the same time, Dr. Nephros! This is just the 'textbook' presentation and we know people aren't textbooks, right?

Other signs and symptoms you'll want to take note of include:

  • Chills
  • Frequent urination and/or a strong urge to urinate
  • Painful urination or a sensation of burning when urinating
  • Abdominal or groin pain
  • Pus or blood in the urine, which will tinge the urine white or red, respectively.

Treatment

Let's say you've diagnosed a patient of yours as having pyelonephritis. What are you going to do about it? Well, if you think back to your days in medical school and residency, you'll recall that pyelonephritis is mainly caused by bacteria. And the most common of which, with respect to causing pyelonephritis, is Escherichia coli, or E. coli. Your patient's urine sample confirms this diagnostically.

E. coli is a very common cause of pyelonephritis
e.coli

So what do you do to treat it? You use antibiotics, drugs that kill bacteria or stop them from multiplying. In the latter case, the bacteria either die on their own or your immune system kills them. Some antibiotics that might be used to treat pyelonephritis are:

  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Ceftazidime
  • Vancomycin

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support