The kidneys are bean-shaped organs located in the lower back--on each side of the spine--that function to filter waste products from the body and produce urine. A kidney infection, also called pyelonephritis, occurs when bacteria travels through the blood stream or through the urinary tract to cause an infection in the kidneys. Women experience more urinary tract infections that men because the shorter urethra positioned close to the anus increases the risk of bacteria invading the urinary tract. Recognizing the symptoms associated with a kidney infection proves important because without proper medical treatment, the permanent kidney damage may occur.
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Women with kidney infections may experience a fever as a symptom of the condition. The fever begins suddenly and may reach high levels greater than 101 degrees F. Chills can accompany the fever, according to the Merck Manual of Health Information. For individuals with chronic kidney infections, the fever may come and go or may not occur.
A kidney infection may affect one or both kidneys at a time. Pain occurs on the same side of the body as the infected kidney. The pain location with a kidney infection includes the side of the body or the lower back on one or both sides of the spine. A woman may also experience pain in the abdomen or the groin, according to the Mayo Clinic. The abdominal pain may also include symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. The nausea and vomiting with the kidney infection may signify an increase in the severity of the infection.
Urinary symptoms associated with a kidney infection often mimic symptoms of a lower urinary tract infection called cystitis. These symptoms include an increased frequency and urgency in urination. Women may also experience pain or a burning sensation when urinating. The urine itself may appear cloudy or it can contain blood or pus. Blood in the urine may appear as bright red streaks or it may change the color of the urine to pink, red or a rusty color.
Elderly women may not have any of the symptoms typically found with kidney infections. Because symptoms do not appear, older women may not seek medical attention for the infection. Without proper treatment, the infection may spread to the bloodstream and cause sepsis. Older women may also begin to experience delirium with the kidney infection, according to the Merck Manual.