Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Drinking water is the best way to prevent a kidney infection.

Drinking water is the best way to prevent a kidney infection.
beginning of content

Pyelonephritis (kidney infection)

Pyelonephritis is the medical term used for a kidney infection. It can make you very unwell, but usually gets better with treatment. See a doctor as soon as you can if you think you might have pyelonephritis. You will lower the risk of damage to your kidneys by getting prompt treatment.

Types of pyelonephritis

Pyelonephritis can be acute or chronic. If pyelonephritis comes on, then goes away with treatment, that symptom is acute.

But chronic pyelonephritis comes and goes, or perhaps never really goes away. This can damage the kidneys. Chronic pyelonephritis usually happens if there is a problem causing urine to flow backwards from the bladder up into the kidneys.

What causes pyelonephritis?

Pyelonephritis is usually caused by bacteria. The bacteria can spread to the kidneys from a bladder infection. Some people with diabetes, or who have a blockage in their urinary tract, are more likely to get pyelonephritis.

Pyelonephritis symptoms

If you have pyelonephritis you might have:

  • kidney pain, which you feel in your back or on your side
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fevers and chills
  • smelly, cloudy or bloody urine
  • burning pain when you pass urine
  • the need to pass urine more often than usual.

If you're not sure whether or not you might have pyelonephritis, you can use healthdirect’s Symptom Checker as a guide.

Pyelonephritis diagnosis

Your doctor will talk to you and examine you. If they suspect you have pyelonephritis, they may ask you to have some tests. A urine test can help find out if there is an infection in your urinary tract.

You may need an ultrasound to make sure there is no blockage in your urinary tract. You might also have blood tests to check for infection in the bloodstream.

Pyelonephritis treatment

If you have pyelonephritis, you might need to start your treatment in hospital. At first, antibiotics are given through a drip. When you have improved enough, you then take antibiotics by mouth, which can be done at home.

If you have pain, paracetamol can provide some relief. Ask your doctor what else may help.

If you have a blockage in your urinary tract that has caused pyelonephritis, you might need surgery urgently.

Pyelonephritis prevention

You can reduce your risk of pyelonephritis by drinking plenty of water and by seeing your doctor if you think you have a urinary tract infection. If you are diabetic, keeping up with treatment will help. And if you tend to get urinary tract infections after sex, than make sure you pass urine as soon as possible after sex.

More information

For more information, see Kidney Health Australia or call Healthdirect on 1800 022 222.

Last reviewed: June 2016

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 5 results

Urinary Tract Infections

Your urinary system is made up of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Your kidneys do   many important jobs. One is to remove waste   and extra fluid from the blood to make urine.

Read more on Kidney Health Australia website

Urinary tract infection (UTI) - Lab Tests Online AU

A UTI is an infection of one or more parts of the urinary tract. The urinary tract consists of two kidneys, two ureters, a bladder, and a urethra. The kidneys are bean-shaped organs found in the lower back below the ribcage. They filter waste out of the blood and produce urine to carry the waste and excess water out of the body. The urine is carried through the ureters (tubes) from the kidneys to the bladder.

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Urinary tract infection (UTI) -

Urinary tract infection occurs when part of the urinary tract becomes infected. UTIs are usually caused by bacteria and generally clear up with a course of antibiotics.

Read more on myDr website

Zerbaxa Powder for infusion -

Zerbaxa Powder for infusion - Consumer Medicines Information leaflets of prescription and over-the-counter medicines

Read more on myDr – Consumer Medicine Information website

Cystitis | Better Health Channel

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo