A kidney infection or pyelonephritis can develop when bacteria makes its way into kidneys, usually following a bladder infection.

Acute kidney infections are less common than other urinary tract infections. The symptoms are typically similar to illnesses like appendicitis and pelvic inflammatory diseases.

Abnormal Urine

Urination moves waste and extra water out of the body. A change in the usual pattern of urination is a significant indication of a kidney infection. Kidneys make urine, so problems with this organ will often be visible in the excretion, and include changes in consistency and frequency. Some people experience an overwhelming, persistent urge, especially at night -- this is an early sign of a kidney infections.

Color changes can also indicate an issue. Urine may be darker than usual, bubbly or foamy, and may have a bad smell. Blood or pus may be present, and one may feel pressure or discomfort while urinating.

a nurse holding up a urine sample


A kidney infection can cause swelling when the organ is incapable of relinquishing urine and other waste, and these byproducts build up, causing kidney damage.

Excess salts and water accumulate in the body, which causes swelling, medically known as edema, in the ankles, hands, and feet, especially in the morning. Some may notice puffiness in the face as well.

woman in pink holding her hand


Mild nausea and vomiting can be due to dehydration as the body tries to expel toxins by increasing urination.

This nausea can cause a loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss and may be accompanied by constant pressure or pain in the abdominal region. Antibiotics prescribed for kidney infections can also cause mild nausea and vomiting.

woman leaning over the toilet nauseous


People with kidney infections often feel excessive fatigue. This is due in part to the body's need for rest to recover fully from the infection, but anemia can also cause this symptom.

Left untreated, kidney infections can cause chronic, kidney damage. A damaged kidney produces less erythropoietin (the hormone that signals the bone marrow to make red blood cells), causing anemia and less oxygen in the body.

person leaning against a couch with their eyes closed

Skin Rashes

With a kidney infection, rashes or irritation can develop on the skin. Though many people confuse a rash with common or less severe issues such as allergies, they can also indicate kidney infection or kidney failure.

The excess build-up of waste compounds in the body causes this symptom and can also lead to itching, which exacerbates the rash.

woman scratching her neck skin


Infection can prompt the body temperature to increase above 100 degrees F. A fever accompanying shivering or chills may indicate a kidney infection.

Anemia may lead to increased body temperature, however, anemia is associated with low-grade fever, whereas an infection,(especially infections caused by bacteria) will cause moderate to high fever, as well as chills, and back or side (flank) pain.

woman on the couch checking her fever

Flank Pain

Dull, throbbing pain or pressure between the hips and ribs that appears intermittently can point to issues with the kidneys. The discomfort occurs close to the affected kidney or in the back or abdomen and can flare when standing, sitting, or bending. Typically, the pain occurs on one side of the body.

woman on the beach holding her back

Bad Breath

Bad breath can be caused by dehydration or nausea and vomiting associated with kidney infections. Some may experience bad breath after antibiotic treatment used to treat kidney infections.

Not only can the antibiotics lead to smelly breath, but they can also cause foods to taste different or badly, and leave a metallic taste in the mouth. This symptom can contribute to loss of appetite and weight loss.

woman checking her bad breath

Trouble Breathing

Kidney infections usually do not cause breathing difficulties.

Infections associated with trouble breathing require medical attention as soon as possible because they may suggest sepsis (when bacteria enters the blood) or kidney failure. Both sepsis and kidney failure are possible complications of a kidney infection and both require urgent treatment.

woman on the couch holding her chest


People with kidney problems may feel confused, more tired, dizzy, and experience difficulty concentrating. Fever leading to dehydration, and the infection itself, may be responsible for these symptoms, which should improve once the treatment starts.

women in a blue sweater feeling her forehead


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