Medical Monday: A plague of pyelonephritis !

I don't know about other professions, but in medicine there is an old intern's tale that things come in threes. It can be ectopics, miscarriages, twins, or this last week : pyelonephritis. Pyelonephritis is infection in the kidneys. It's awful. But good news: it's easy to diagnose and treat. I might add, it's easy to prevent. 

What is it and how can it be prevented ? To start thinking about kidney infections, think first about bladder infections. They are very common. Women get them because their urethra is all of about 3 cm long and the bacteria in the area can ascend quite easily. Whenever there is irritation or dehydration, infection has a chance to set up.

An undiagnosed or neglected bladder infection simply ascends up the urethra to the kidney, and if the patient is dehydrated, run down, or otherwise compromised in some other way, she can develop a kidney infection. Forms of " other compromise"  include, but are not limited to, kidney stones, other illnesses or pregnancy. 

Bladder infections have the symptoms of burning, urgency, or difficulty voiding. They are diagnosed by symptoms and a dip test. They are easy to treat with tablets taken by mouth and generous hydration with water. 

Kidney infection symptoms are more systemic, including fever aches, nausea, and backache. These infections are deep within the body and have gotten through several defenses. They require IV antibiotics or shots, and good hydration. If a pregnant woman gets a kidney infection, she must be admitted to the hospital, usually for a few days. Pyelonephritis is linked with preterm labor. 

How can we prevent kidney and bladder infections ? First and foremost, hydrate well. Women need 2 liters of water a day, and pregnant women need 3 liters per day. A good rule of thumb is to keep your urine looking nearly clear. Urinate after sex. Keep yourself well rested and in a good general state of health. Finally, don't wait to call in if you think you might have a bladder infection. If you wait too long, you could get pyelonephritis.