A kidney infection is a serious medical condition. Known medically as a urinary tract infection (UTI), kidney infections afflict women more than men. About one out of every five women will experience a kidney infection. Common symptoms of UTI in women can be a strong urge to urinate frequently, a burning sensation during urination and more severe symptoms. Left untreated, a kidney infection in women can cause permanent kidney damage.
Urinary tract infections strike women more than men because a woman's anus is closer to the urethra and thus is susceptible to bacteria from the digestive tract, and the woman's urethra is shorter than a man's, enabling bacteria to travel more quickly to the urinary tract organs. Nearly all UTIs are caused by bacteria, and the vast majority are caused by the Escherichia coli bacteria, commonly known as E. coli. A kidney infection in women might also be caused by bacteria entering the urethra during sexual intercourse, by perfumed soaps and bubble baths or even by wearing tight-fitting clothing.
A kidney infection in women usually begins with cystitis, or a bladder infection. Bacteria enters the urethra and travels up into the bladder. Symptoms include malaise, the need to urinate frequently, the passage of only small amounts of urine and a burning sensation in the urethra. After the bacteria has climbed into the kidneys, symptoms include severe, radiating pain in the lower back, side or lower abdomen; cloudy or bloody urine; fever; chills; and nausea or vomiting.
Symptoms of UTI in women should not be ignored. Kidney infections are easily treated with a regimen of drinking fluids and oral antibiotics, which cure more than 90 percent of uncomplicated kidney infections in women. Some studies have shown that drinking cranberry juice, a highly acidic liquid that repels bacteria, is helpful in treating early symptoms of kidney infection in women. Severe cases of urinary tract infections or extremely painful symptoms might require hospitalization and antibiotics administered intravenously.
Although they are serious, kidney infections in women are easily treated when the symptoms are detected early. The most common symptoms of UTI infections, such as a burning sensation in the urethra and a general feeling of malaise, are early indications of a kidney infection in women. When treatment is sought promptly, the discomfort of minor symptoms and the dangers of severe symptoms are quickly relieved.