Kidney Infections Vs. Urinary Tract Infection: What Is The Difference?

Kidney infections come under the urinary tract infection category. It is developed due to untreated UTI and can cause fatal consequences.

Chanchal Sengar
Written by: Chanchal SengarUpdated at: Jan 08, 2021 15:42 IST
Kidney Infections Vs. Urinary Tract Infection: What Is The Difference?

A lot of people get confused between bladder infections and urinary tract infections. The reason behind this is that kidney infection or bladder infection is a kind of UTI. In simpler words, kidney infections come under UTI and this is why people often consider these two to be the same. Kidney infection is generally caused as a result of an untreated UTI infection and may become severe. For more specifications and differences between kidney infection and UTI, read the complete article. 

The common link between UTI and Kidney Infections

The urinary tract in our bodies includes the bladder, kidneys and urethra. When any bacteria invades and infects the tract, it leads to urinary tract infection or UTI. Infection in the kidneys, bladder and urethra is a part of urinary tract infection. The most common kidney infection is Pyelonephritis, a bladder infection is Cystitis and urethra infection is Urethritis. All of these come under UTI. But when a person is diagnosed with a UTI, that doesn’t mean he has either of the aforesaid infections. Amongst all kinds of UTIs, kidney infection is potentially severe and can cause complications if not treated on time. Therefore, a person must know whether they have UTI or a kidney infection to save their kidneys on time.

UTI Symptoms Vs. Kidney infections symptoms 


As per Dr. Shrirang Bichu, Nephrologist from Bombay Hospital, Mumbai, most of the symptoms of kidney infections is similar to UTIs including urethra infection(urethritis) and bladder infections(cystitis). These are:

  • Painful urination
  • Burning feeling when urinating
  • Urge to urinate often
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Blood in urine
  • Abdominal Pain and discomfort
  • Passing very little urine but frequently

While these were common symptoms, here are some symptoms that if noticed along with the above-mentioned symptoms specifically indicate kidney infections:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Lower back or side pain


Causes of Kidney Infections Vs UTI

Holistic health is very important as it keeps all the organs and systems secure. The urinary tract of a healthy person is well-equipped to fight infections. The pathogens are eliminated from the body through urine keeping the urinary tract infection-free. But for that, one needs to drink a lot of water throughout the day.

Due to ill health, poor lifestyle & dietary habits, kidney health is compromised and it allows the entry of pathogens to the system. Bacteria enter the urinary trace and multiply which causes infections. Delay in addressing the symptoms and treatment causes their further multiplication that can cause severe renal infection. In some cases, bacteria enter the urinary tract through the gastrointestinal tract.

The bacteria that causes UTIs and Kidney infections is E. Coli. Although UTIs are highly prevalent in women, men and children too can get UTI. Women are at greater risk because of their anatomy. As their urethra is very close to the anus, the chances of bacteria travelling to the urinary tract and causing infections are high.


Causes of Kidney Infections

The infection first occurs in the urinary tract and if it is not treated, it can scale upwards to the kidneys causing Pyelonephritis(kidney infection). An untreated kidney infection is more dangerous as it can cause sepsis which is a fatal condition. In short, kidney infections are caused when urinary tract infections are left untreated. In some cases, kidney infections may also be caused due to infection in some other part of the body that travelled to kidneys and after-effect of kidney surgery.

Also Read: Unbelievable True Story Of A Man Who Survived Four Different Cancers In Five Years

Are Kidney Infections and UTI Treated Differently?

Considering that both UTI and kidney infections are slightly different, their treatment options also vary. To diagnose whether you have only urinary tract infection or kidney infection, the doctor would conduct a urine test to check for the presence of infection-causing pathogens in the urine.

Here are some possible treatment options for kidney infections and UTI.

  • Antibiotics: The first step towards kidney infections and UTI treatment is an antibiotics course. If the infection is at the initial level, the doctor would prescribe certain antibiotics to kill the bacteria that are causing the infection. The course dose and duration would depend on the type of bacterial kidney infection and its severity. 
  • The doctor may initially prescribe generic antibiotics that are effective against most urinary tract infections. If bacteria are cultured in the urine, they may prescribe other antibiotics that specifically target the bacteria found in your urine sample.
  • If the infection is mild and causes only some pain and discomfort, the doctor may prescribe medicines that can relieve painful urination conditions.
  • People with chronic kidney infection may be hospitalized followed by intravenous insertion of antibiotics and fluids.
  • Regular urine tests to be conducted until the traces of bacteria are completely gone. This helps in ensuring that the infection is cured. However, a person can get such infection again and therefore, maintain good hygiene and healthy dietary & lifestyle practices is a must.

One should complete the entire antibiotics course to completely heal from the infection. A lot of people leave the course in between as they begin to feel better unaware of the fact that this can cause the infection to reoccur. Flare-ups are seen in cases of incomplete antibiotics course as stronger bacteria aren’t easy to kill.


Also Read: Foods You Should Avoid If You Have Urinary Tract Infection

How to prevent kidney infections and UTI?

As we have mentioned earlier in this article, kidney infections generally arise from untreated UTIs. If a person is diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, he/she must take necessary precautions to prevent it from escalating to a kidney infection. The below-mentioned tips from nephrologist can help in easing the symptoms and preventing kidney infections.


  • Drink a lot of water and healthy fluids to keep your urinary tract healthy. As you drink more water, you’ll urinate more and eventually all the bacteria and pathogens would be flushed from the system.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages like tea & coffee when you have UTI. These can cause inflammation which increases pain & discomfort.
  • If you are dealing with abdominal or back or side pain, use a heating pad to lessen the sensation.
  • Take over-the-counter pain-relieving medicines such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce acute and unbearable pain.
  • Always wipe your intimate area with clean wipes from front to back to deny entry of bacteria into the urethra through the anus.
  • Urinate after sex as it prevents the entry of bacteria to the urethra during sex. This step flushes out the pathogens from the body.
  • Practice hygiene measures when travelling. Avoid using public washrooms unless urgent. Always carry a toilet seat sanitiser to sanitize the toilet before using it. This step is a must for people who are vulnerable to UTIs especially women.
  • If you experience abdominal pain, back pain, urination problems, etc. you must get a urine test done immediately for urinary tract infection. Timely diagnosis can prevent severe infections.


Kidney infections are caused when the bacteria travels from the urethra to the kidneys. In most cases, the person suffers from urinary tract infection first and when it is not treated, it develops into kidney infections. UTIs are common in women and this is why they must practice good intimate hygiene. One should consult a doctor upon seeing the symptoms of UTI. However, in some cases, a UTI can occur even after taking all the precautions. Thus, the key to staying safe is regular medical checkups. Speak to a doctor about the symptoms you are noticing to identify the problem and prevent serious kidney diseases.

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