Kidney Infection vs UTI: Key Differences and Treatment Methods

Nishi Kashyap
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Kaushal

Review medical content on WOW Rx Pharmacy, so that accurate drug use information is easily accessible to everybody.
Dr. Akansha is a licensed Clinical Pharmacologist. She possesses remarkable knowledge in Pharmacovigilance, prescription analysis, drug information, and drug safety services. Additionally, she is a keen learner and an educator.

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Kidney infection vs uti learn the difference

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) and Kidney infections are two common conditions that affect the urinary system. UTIs might affect any part of the urinary tract, including the bladder, urethra, and kidneys.

Kidney infections, however, are a more serious form of UTI affecting the kidneys. Both are caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract and multiplying, but if left untreated, they both have different consequences.

This article aims to thoroughly compare Kidney infections vs UTIs, focusing on their symptoms and the significance of receiving appropriate treatment for each condition.

Quick Overview

Here’s a quick overview of UTI and Kidney infection: 

FactorsUTIKidney infections
Affected areaLower urinary tractKidneys
SymptomsFrequent urination, pain during urination, lower abdominal pain, and discomfortHigh fever, serious back or side pain, nausea, vomiting, and cloudy urine
PrevalenceCan affect both men and women but is more prevalent in womenCan affect both men and women but is more prevalent in women
CausesBacterial infectionsBacterial infections
ComplicationsIf left untreated, can lead to PyelonephritisMay lead to kidney damage if left untreated
TreatmentUsually treated with antibioticsMay require hospitalization and antibiotic injections

What is the difference between Kidney infection and UTI?

A UTI is a bacterial infection that can occur in any part of the urinary tract, such as the bladder, urethra, ureters, or kidneys. Initially affecting the lower urinary tract, it can progress to the kidneys if left untreated.

A Kidney infection, also known as Pyelonephritis, is a serious UTI that affects the kidneys directly. It occurs when bacteria from the bladder reach the kidneys, leading to symptoms such as fever, back or side pain, nausea, and vomiting, along with typical UTI symptoms like frequent and painful urination.

The main difference is the areas affected and the severity: UTIs usually affect the lower tract, while Kidney infections target the kidneys directly.

About 1 in 30 UTI cases progresses to a kidney infection. Your risk is higher if you often have bladder infections or if there’s a structural issue in your urinary tract.

UTI vs Kidney infection symptoms

A woman suffering from uti pain
A woman suffering from uti pain

Below are some symptoms that can help differentiate between a UTI and a Kidney infection.

Symptoms of UTI

When people use the term “UTI,” they usually refer to a lower Urinary Tract Infection.

Here are a few symptoms of lower UTI:

  • Frequent and urgent need to urinate
  • Pain or burning sensation during urination
  • Cloudy or strong-smelling urine
  • Lower abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Mild fever and chills
  • Feeling tired and unwell

Symptoms of Kidney infection or upper UTI

A Kidney infection with Cystitis or Urethritis can lead to the same symptoms as lower UTIs. 

Additionally, here are a few symptoms of Kidney infection:

  • High temperature( can reach upto 103.1F)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shiver or chills
  • Feeling sick or very tired
  • Pain in your lower back, side, or around the genitals
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting and nausea
A severe Kidney infection can result in dangerous complications, including blood poisoning, tissue damage, or even death. If you experience symptoms of a Kidney infection, such as bloody urine, nausea, or vomiting, seek medical attention immediately.

Which is more serious: Kidney infection vs UTI

Kidney infections are significantly more severe than lower UTIs. A study published in the NCBI highlights that Kidney infections are more likely to lead to serious complications such as kidney damage and bloodstream infections compared to lower UTIs. 

Immediate medical treatment is crucial for Kidney infections, which can become life-threatening if they spread into the bloodstream.

Diagnosing Kidney infection vs UTI

To diagnose a Kidney infection vs UTI, healthcare providers typically follow these steps:

  • Symptom assessment: The healthcare provider examines the patient’s symptoms, which include the type and location of pain, how often and urgently they urinate, and any changes in urine color or smell
  • Urine test: A sample is collected and checked for bacteria, blood, or pus. This helps identify if the infection is in the bladder and urethra or has spread to the kidneys
  • Blood tests: These tests might be requested to detect signs of infection, like increased white blood cell counts or the presence of bacteria in the bloodstream
  • Imaging studies: Imaging tests like ultrasound, CT scans, or X-rays may be used to visualize the kidneys and urinary tract, helping to identify any structural issues or blockages that could be contributing to the infection

By combining these diagnostic steps, healthcare providers can accurately determine whether the infection is a UTI or Kidney infection and develop an appropriate treatment plan accordingly.

Treatment methods for UTI and Kidney infection

While UTIs and Kidney infections are typically treated with antibiotics, the specific antibiotics and treatment duration can vary. Antibiotics like Nitrofurantoin, Cephalexin, and Trimethoprim Sulfamethoxazole are commonly used for treating UTIs.

These antibiotics effectively target the common bacteria responsible for UTIs, providing relief from symptoms like burning during urination, frequent urination, and abdominal pain.

On the contrary, Kidney infections, being more severe, often require antibiotics like Ciprofloxacin (Ciplox 250 mg), Ceftriaxone, Doxycycline, or Fosfomycin. These antibiotics are more potent and may be administered intravenously for severe cases.

Given the severity of Kidney infections compared to UTIs, the treatment duration is typically longer, often lasting from 7 to 14 days. 

This extended duration is necessary to ensure the infection is completely eradicated. In some cases, Kidney infections may require more intense care and treatment due to their potential for complications such as permanent kidney damage and Sepsis. 

For a reliable and affordable treatment option for UTIs and Kidney infections, consider Augmentin 375, available at WowRxPharmacy. Augmentin effectively targets the bacteria responsible for these infections.

Preventions for Kidney infection and UTI

Preventing Kidney infections begins with preventing UTIs, as Kidney infections often stem from bladder infections. Here are some steps to lower the risk of UTIs and, consequently, Kidney infections:

  • Stay hydrated: Drink ample fluids, particularly water, to rinse bacteria from the urinary tract
  • Maintain proper hygiene: When wiping after urinating, always clean from front to back to avoid spreading bacteria from the anus to the urethra
  • Avoid irritating products: Avoid using irritating genital products like douches or deodorant sprays
  • Urinate after intercourse: Urinating after sexual activity can aid in eliminating bacteria that might have entered the urinary tract


Understanding the differences between Kidney infections and UTIs is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment. While UTIs commonly affect the lower urinary tract and can be treated with a short course of antibiotics, Kidney infections are more severe, often requiring longer treatment and sometimes hospitalization. 

Recognizing symptoms early and seeking prompt medical care can prevent complications such as permanent kidney damage and Sepsis. Preventive measures like staying hydrated, maintaining proper hygiene, and urinating after intercourse can also reduce your risk of developing these infections. 

Always consult a healthcare provider if you experience symptoms of a UTI or Kidney infection to ensure timely and effective treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between UTI and Kidney infection?

UTIs can impact any area of the urinary tract, whereas Kidney infections specifically target the kidneys. UTIs commonly result in discomfort in the lower urinary tract, while severe symptoms like high fever and back pain characterize Kidney infections.

What is the fastest way to flush your kidneys?

Drinking plenty of water is the fastest way to flush your kidneys. Aim for at least 8 glasses a day, and adjust based on your age, health, and physical activity level. Staying hydrated helps dilute your urine and promotes regular urination, which flushes out toxins and bacteria from your urinary tract.

Will I test positive for a UTI if I have a Kidney infection?

Yes, you will typically test positive for a UTI if you have a Kidney infection. Kidney infections are a more severe form of UTIs, starting in the lower urinary tract and moving to the kidneys. 

How do I check if my kidneys are ok?

If you’re concerned about kidney disease, consult a doctor. They will check your eGFR and urine albumin levels to determine if you have kidney damage. A low eGFR indicates reduced kidney function, while albumin in urine can signal kidney damage even if eGFR levels are normal.

Do you treat a UTI and Kidney infection the same?

No, UTIs and Kidney infections require different treatments. UTIs are usually managed with a short course of antibiotics. In contrast, Kidney infections often need a longer antibiotic course and, in severe cases, may require hospitalization for intravenous antibiotics.

How do you test for Kidney infection vs UTI?

Doctors diagnose UTIs and Kidney infections by analyzing urine samples for bacteria, blood, or pus. Additional tests, such as blood cultures, ultrasounds, CT scans, or X-rays, may be done to confirm a Kidney infection. Prompt diagnosis is crucial for appropriate treatment.

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