There is a direct connection between a kidney infection and stones. If left untreated, the presence of kidney stones can cause a kidney infection, also known as pyelonephritis. The stones can lead to a blockage or slower draining of urine from the bladder. This allows bacteria to enter the kidneys without being flushed back out, which causes the infection.
There are two separate sections of the urinary tract, and both have separate forms of a urinary tract infection (UTI). A lower tract infection can occur in the bladder or urethra. Men can also have an infection in the prostate. An upper tract infection occurs in the kidneys. Most kidney infections begin as a lower tract infection that goes undetected, and the bacteria spreads into the upper tract.
A kidney infection and stones are also connected when an infection occurs without stones as a direct cause. In this instance, the infection is a result of bacterial exposure. An untreated UTI, bladder problems, and urine back flow are common precursors that lead to a build up of minerals that make stones. In these instances, kidney infections are the cause of developing the stones.
There are different treatments for both a kidney infection and stones. Doctors will take urine, and sometimes blood, samples. The samples will be cultured in a laboratory to determine the specific bacteria causing the infection. General antibiotics are prescribed while the samples are cultured. After the results come back, the type of antibiotics may be changed if the type of bacteria requires a specific antibiotic treatment.
Treating infections and stones quickly is important. Stones can do significant damage if they are too large to pass and are left inside the kidneys, or if they become lodged in the urinary tract. Infections that continue without treatment can lead to damaged kidneys or damage to other parts of the urinary tract.
Kidney stones require a different treatment than an infection. Stones are made of mineral deposits, so they will not respond to antibiotic medications. Normal kidney stones are small enough to pass through the urinary tract in about two days. Larger sized stones do not usually pass through on their own, and may require a special procedure called lithotripsy, which uses shock waves to break up the large stones so they can pass through.
Experiencing a kidney infection and stones can be painful. An infection can cause a stinging or burning sensation when urinating, as well as tender kidneys. Stones can cause painful irritation and inflammation as they pass. Pain and inflammation can be reduced with pain relievers. If over the counter relievers are not effective, prescription versions are available.