Urinary tract infection

Complications of a urinary tract infection

Complications of a UTI aren’t common, but they can be serious.

Complications usually only affect people with a pre-existing health condition, such as diabetes, or a weakened immune system (the body’s natural defence against infection).

The complications of UTIs are discussed below.

Kidney infection

Kidney infection, medically known as pyelonephritis, can happen when bacteria travel from the bladder to the kidneys.

A kidney infection doesn't usually pose a serious threat to your health if treated promptly, but it can make you feel very unwell. And, if a kidney infection isn't treated, it can get worse and cause permanent kidney damage.

Often the symptoms come on quickly, within a few hours, and they can make you feel feverish, shivery, sick and with a pain in your back or side.

Find out more about the symptoms of kidney infection and treating kidney infection.

Kidney failure

Kidney failure is when the kidneys stop working properly. If a person has kidney failure (also known as renal failure), they may need to have artificial kidney treatment, called dialysis.

Find out more about dialysis.

Blood poisoning

Blood poisoning (sepsis) is a rare, but potentially fatal, complication of kidney infection. It happens when bacteria spreads from the kidneys into the bloodstream. Once bacteria are in your blood, the infection can spread to any part of your body, including all of the major organs.

Blood poisoning is a medical emergency that usually requires admission to a hospital intensive care unit (ICU) while antibiotics are used to fight the infection.

Find out more about the symptoms of blood poisoning and treating blood poisoning.

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