Infections of the urinary tract are probably the most common infections in women. This type of infection is divided into two subtypes: upper urinary tract infections and lower urinary tract infections. The latter is more common and include infection to the urethra and urinary bladder, and the former is a bit less common and it is an infection of the kidneys. In the natural history of a kidney infection, it is commonly preceded by a lower urinary tract infection that colonized the bladder and worked its way upwards to the upper urinary tract. However, it is possible to have a bloodborne infection coming from any other infected area of the body.
Since upper and lower urinary tract infections usually coexist in the same patient, most of them display symptoms for both. However, if we have an isolated infection of the kidneys without any associated infection of the urinary bladder, the symptoms are different from a usual urinary infection. In this article, we will give you a complete list of symptoms to help you detect an infection of the kidneys with and without an associated infection of your urinary bladder.
The first symptom to stand out in a kidney infection is flank pain. The kidneys are located near the lower back, at each side of the spine. People with a kidney infection often experience dull pain in this location. It can range from mild discomfort to severe lower back pain. When performing a physical examination, your doctor will probably need to test for flank pain with a soft pat in this area. It is important to report any discomfort or pain triggered by this movement.
Flank pain results from the stimulation of the nerve terminals by inflammatory mediators released by the infected kidney. In some cases, it might result from other associated problems, such as kidney stones and swelling of the organ, which is a medical condition called pyelonephritis. Kidney stones are the most common cause of flank pain, and when they move into the urinary tract flank pain starts radiating downwards to the genitals and thigh. It is usually located on one side because most kidney infections are located in one kidney, but when both kidneys are taken it will be bilateral.