Symptoms of
Kidney Infection 
in Women

Understanding the symptoms of kidney infection can be the first step in treating your infection and preventing more serious problems or recurrent symptoms of infection.






"most commonly start in the lower urinary tract"

Kidney infections, also known as pyelonephritis, occur when foreign bacteria make their way into the kidneys.

While it is possible for bacteria in the blood to seed a kidney infection; these infections most commonly start in the lower urinary tract and then migrate up into the kidneys through the ureters. So, if you can stop your urinary tract infection you may never have to worry about symptoms of a kidney infection.

Both of these infections are more much more common in women than in men and may be confused with menopause symptoms. A recent study published by the American Urological Association showed that women are 5 times more likely to have a urinary tract infection than men, and 4 times more likely to have a kidney infection.

"when bacteria from the outside world are transferred into the urethra"

The reason for the increased incidence in women may be related to the anatomy.

Most urinary tract infections occur when bacteria from the outside world are transferred into the urethra or the bladder.

The Problem for Women

A woman's rectum is much closer to the urinary opening, and her urethra is much shorter than a man's.

This makes it easier for bacteria from the bowel, the skin, and other sources to travel into the bladder.

Infections of the urethra, or tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside of the body, are called urethritis.

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Several Different Infections are Pyelonephritis

A bladder infection is termed cystitis, and infections of the kidneys are called pyelonephritis.They are all urinary tract infections which may cause symptoms that are mistaken for menopause symptoms.

Vaginal discomfort and itching, bladder control problems, and night sweats are all menopause symptoms that may be confused with, or cover up, symptoms of a kidney infection.

"may quickly lead to multiple organ failure and death if not properly treated"

When infections of the lower urinary tract turn into kidney infections, they may be mild and cause little or no symptoms, or they may be serious with life threatening consequences.

Severe kidney infections can progress into an abscess leading to kidney failure, or spread infection into your blood and other organs. Infections in other organs may quickly lead to multiple organ failure and death if not properly treated.

It is important that you not ignore even mild symptoms of a kidney infection or urinary tract infection such as frequent urination, an overactive bladder, or overactive bladder symptoms. Evaluation and treatment is quick and easy when infections are not well established. Recognizing early symptoms and seeing your doctor quickly can stop a simple problem from turning into a very serious and severe illness. 

Risk factors for a Urinary Tract Infection


A study published by the American Urological Association showed that a BMI of more than 30 increased your risk of both urinary tract infections and kidney infections.


Placement of a Foley catheter increases the risk of introducing bacteria into the bladder.


Frequent vigorous sexual intercourse increases the risk because bacteria may be forced into the urethral opening. Urologists have called this "honeymoon cystitis".

Urinary tract blockages

Anything that obstructs the flow of urine, such as urethral strictures or scarring, increases your chances of developing a urinary tract infection.

Improper toileting

Wiping from back to front after a bowel movement risks introducing bacteria into the urethra.


When your uterus presses against your bladder and urethra it can make it difficult to completely empty your bladder. Stale urine can give bacteria a place to grow.

Kidney Stones

Stones may obstruct or damage the urinary tract making infections more likely.

Certain diseases and conditions

Diseases such as poorly controlled diabetes and cancer may weaken your immune system or interfere with the function of your urinary tract, making infections more likely.

Symptoms of a urinary tract infection :

  • Back or flank pain
  • Pain or burning with urination
  • Frequent urination
  • Overactive bladder symptoms
  • Feeling the urge to urinate but unable to pass urine
  • Frequent loss of bladder control
  • Urine with a strong odor or cloudy color

Menopause symptoms that may be confused with symptoms of a urinary tract infection :

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Vaginal discomfort and itching

Learn More: 
More Serious Symptoms Of Kidney Infection

Maybe these can help :

Kidney Stones Back Pain

Common Symptoms of Kidney Problems Include Back Pain

Kidney Location

The National Kidney Foundation

Return from Symptoms of Kidney Infection in Women to Causes of Back Pain

Return to Living with Back Pain Homepage



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