Kidney Infection (Pyelonephritis)

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Author: Siamak N. Nabili, MD, MPH
    Siamak N. Nabili, MD, MPH

    Dr. Nabili received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. He then completed his graduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His graduate training included a specialized fellowship in public health where his research focused on environmental health and health-care delivery and management.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quick GuideWhat's Causing Your Abdominal Pain?

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What are the causes of kidney infection?

Urine, similar to other fluids in the body, is normally sterile without any bacterial infection. Therefore, the presence of bacteria in the urine is considered abnormal and may lead to urinary tract infection. Typically, bacteria gain access to the urinary system from outside through the urethra (the drainage tube for urine from the bladder). The bacteria may then ascend in the urinary system and cause kidney infections. Kidney infection (upper UTI) is typically more severe than lower UTI because bacteria may also infect the bloodstream (bacteremia) from the kidneys resulting in a more severe illness.

Bacteria may travel from the rectum or the vagina towards the urethra to gain entry into the urinary system. Other bacteria may enter from the skin. Women are more susceptible to urinary tract infections due to the shorter length of their urethras in comparison to those of men.

Is a kidney infection contagious?

Since kidney infection occurs when bacteria from the genital or anal areas enter the urinary tract, it is typically not contagious.

Reviewed on 7/27/2015
References
REFERENCES:

Gupta, Kalpana, et al. "Urinary Tract Infection." Annals of Internal Medicine 156.5 (2012): ITC3-1.

NIH. Pyelonephritis: kidney infection. Updated Jun, 11 2012.

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