Kidney Infection Overview
The kidneys are a component of the urinary system which also includes the ureters, urinary bladder, urethra, and prostate (in men). The kidneys are located on either side of the middle back and under the diaphragm. The main functions of the kidneys include filtering the waste products from the body, regulating blood pressure, maintaining the normal concentration of electrolytes (sodium, calcium, potassium, magnesium, etc.) in the body, and contributing to production of blood cells.
The urine is drained downward from each kidney into the ureters on either side of the body. These are thin, tube-like structures that connect the kidneys to the bladder where they ultimately drain the urine. The urine, then, drains from the bladder via another tube-like structure, called the urethra, and exits the body.
Kidney infection belongs to the family of infections of the urinary system called urinary tract infections (UTIs). In general, the infection of the urethra, bladder, and prostate are known as lower urinary tract infection. When the infection ascends up to involve the kidneys, then it is call upper urinary tract infection. Infection of the kidney is also know as pyelonephritis.
Urinary tract infections are very common and may affect 40% of women and 10% of men in their lifetime. They are most common in women younger than 50 years of age, whereas, they are rare in men of the same age group. Urinary tract infection is also common in children, and it may be difficult to diagnose as the symptoms are not easily recognizable. In children, urinary tract infection may be seen more frequently in boys less than 1 year of age and girls less than 4 years of age.
Picture of the kidneys and urinary tract structures
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Acute pyelonephritis is a potentially organ- and/or life-threatening infection that characteristically causes some scarring of the kidney with each infection and may lead to significant damage to the kidney (any given episode), kidney failure, abscess formation (eg, nephric, perinephric), sepsis, or sepsis syndrome/shock/multiorgan system failure.