Have you ever experienced a urinary tract infection (UTI)? The burning sensation when you pee and the urge to visit the bathroom slightly more often than usual are both things that anyone who has had the infection is sure to look back on with not so fond memories. What’s important to note though, is that these symptoms are also common indicators of something more significant: a kidney infection.

According to the NHS, kidney infections are actually quite rare, with estimates suggesting that one out of every 830 people will develop a kidney infection every year in the UK [1]. Still, knowing the common symptoms and signs of a kidney infection is crucial so you can avoid any potential complications and make sure your kidneys remain healthy and in good working order!

Related article: What is Normal Kidney Function and Should you get it Checked?

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What does a kidney infection feel like?

The majority of kidney infections start off with a UTI, which occurs when bacteria enter the urinary tract. If this bacteria multiplies and travels to your kidneys, it can cause a kidney infection. As the urethra is shorter in women, kidney infections are in fact more common in women than in men.

As well as the infamous feeling of a persistent urge to urinate and a burning sensation when you do make it to the bathroom, kidney infections can cause a whole host of other symptoms, these include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Pain in the back, side, groin, or abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Cloudy urine or urine that smells bad

Kidney disease can easily be treated with antibiotics so if you are experiencing the above symptoms, it’s important to reach out to your doctor to avoid any potential complications by leaving the infection untreated.

Related article: Kidney-Friendly Foods: Healthy Foods for People With Kidney Disease

How do you know if a UTI has spread to your kidneys?

Kidney infections are caused by bacteria traveling from your bladder into either one or both of your kidneys. And while UTIs can be treated with a course of antibiotics, if it goes untreated, it can spread to the kidneys and cause an infection.

If your symptoms get worse or don’t improve within a few days, it’s possible that the infection has moved beyond the bladder and towards the kidneys. Remember, a kidney infection can be treated so if you suspect somethings not quite right, be sure to contact your healthcare provider.

What are the risk factors of a kidney infection?

As mentioned above, women are more likely to get a kidney infection than men. In fact, it’s estimated that women are six times more likely to get an infection than men - because their urethras are shorter, it’s easier for bacteria to get to the kidneys [2].

In addition to gender, according to Mayo Clinic, there are a handful of factors that may increase your risk of a kidney infection, including:

  • Having a weakened immune system
  • Having a blockage in the kidneys such as a kidney stone
  • Being sexually active
  • Having a urinary catheter

Related article: Can too Much Protein Damage Your Kidneys?

What happens if a kidney infection is left untreated?

If a kidney infection is left untreated, it can lead to a number of complications including kidney scarring, blood poisoning, and pregnancy complications if you are expecting which is why it’s crucial to get in touch with your doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms or signs of kidney infection [3].

It’s important to note that there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing a kidney infection including drinking plenty of water, urinating after sex, and going to the bathroom once you feel the urge to go.

Related article: Can Medication Damage Your Kidneys?

One of the most reliable ways to keep an eye on your kidney health is through regular testing; this can be done with your doctor or if you would prefer, from the comfort of home with an at-home lab test.

LetsGetChecked’s Kidney Function Test allows you to monitor your kidney function and performance. Online results will be available within 2-5 days and our dedicated clinical team will be available to answer any questions you may have throughout the process.

You should consider taking a Kidney Function Test if any of the below are applicable to you:

  • You suffer from high blood pressure
  • You suffer from diabetes
  • You have suffered an acute injury
  • You have persistent urinary tract infections
  • You have kidney disease or a family history of one
  • You have kidney stones or a family history of them
  • You have a high protein diet
  • You have been taking performance-enhancing drugs

Related article: How do you Check Your Kidney Function From Home?

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Buy an At- Home Kidney Function Test

Check in on your kidney health from the comfort of home with our at-home test.


  1. NHS Inform. Kidney Infection. Online: NHSInform.scot
  2. NHS Inform. Kidney Infection. Online: NHSInform.scot
  3. Mayo Clinic. Kidney Infection. Online: Mayoclinic.org