Chronic Kidney Infections: You Don’t Have to Live with Them

The truth is, there is no living with chronic kidney infections. Or, should I say, there is no life with chronic kidney infections. There is always something there to stop you from doing the things you love, or the things you want to try. There is always that persistent flank pain whether you actually have an active infection or not. Always the unremitting fatigue that causes you to have to pencil in down time during the day. Down time that takes away your writing time, drawing time, certainly all your friend time; yet without that down time you’re useless. Just a walking zombie, and still there is never enough rest to satisfy your body. So, as I said, there is no life with chronic kidney infections. In fact, there is little in sight except for more kidney infections and a deep bout of depression.

Kidney infections are a rather more serious form of UTI infections, and stem from a number of different causes. Frankly, nearly every woman has suffered from some form of UTI, generally bladder infections. We’re more prone to them due to our anatomical make up. However, chronic UTIs are not part of our anatomical or genetic make up. There is no reason why I, or any other woman should have to suffer from it!

Symptoms of a kidney infection are not to be mistaken with those of a bladder infection and include: flank pain, abdominal pain, fever, chills, vomiting, nausea, and painful urination, increased urgency in or frequency in urination, abnormally colored urine, and blood in urine. (Infections, 2006). As with any illness, you may experience a few or all of the aforementioned symptoms. Furthermore, there are two separate types of kidney infections, one is called Pyelonephritis and has very acute symptoms, while the other, glomerulonephritis, has symptoms that are often vague and hard to properly diagnose. These two types of infections also stem from different sources.

The former infection, Pyelonephritis, usually stems from organisms that cause lower urinary tract infections such as bladder infections. (Kidney Infections, 2006). These infections can move up the urinary tract and into the kidneys. The latter is a more complicated type of infection, and rather more serious, as it is most commonly caused by a strep (streptococcal) infection.

In my case, I was diagnosed with my first very serious and very unpleasant kidney infection in 2004. It took months, nearly 4 to try and pinpoint an exact number, just to heal completely. I dealt with lingering fatigue for another two months, and although the flank pain dulled, it never ceased. However, I didn’t get another until early in 2005 when it was accompanied by several other serious infections. A liver infection and swollen spleen, on top of the kidney infection, was my diagnosis. Still not reason why exactlyâÂ?¦ The doctors treated each problem as it came. Yet as the year went on my infections before more and more frequent; rising to one every two to three months. It was hardly enough time to get over one before I was experiencing the joy of another.

My lucky break came in 2006 when I came down with a severe case of strep throat and a correlating kidney infection. Of course, as strep causing kidney infections is rather rare, my primary care physician thought nothing of it. I was given heavy doses of antibiotics for each infection and sent home for months of bed rest. However, my mother decided to speak to an infectious disease specialist for me. He instantly made the connection and my mother called me, I’d have to fly to my hometown to see him. When I could take the time from work, and after the infections had both healed so I could actually travel, I decided to go.

After a two years of “living” with chronic kidney infections my doctor was finally able to form a link between my infections and its source. Strep. Not only did I have a chronic kidney infection problem, I had a chronic and severe streptococcal infection manifested inside my tonsils. Even when I had no strep symptoms in my throat, the infection was actually still there and causing the infection in my kidneys to flare up every two or three months. The risks of this sort of problem, I learned, also deal with the heart. Streptococcal infections often also infect the heart valves of its host, blocking them from closing properly. A cardiogram would be the next order of business for me.

This problem, though a long term fight, has a painful yet simple solution. A tonsillectomy. The idea is that since the strep lives inside the tonsils you must first take out the source, and then treat what is left. The strep will no longer be able to cause kidney infections for me. What’s left is to treat the kidneys now where the infection still lingers and be sure that there is nothing in the heart. The leftover infection will be treated with antibiotics and should clear up as any normal infection would, leaving me to heal over the next couple of months.

During my bout with chronic kidney infections I’ve found several things helpful: to find what makes the pain worse, and what makes it better. For someone such as myself who is in constant pain, a pain killer is no longer an option. They are too limiting and debilitating to stay on long term. I found that foods and drinks that contained a lot of sugar made the pain worse, in fact, bacteria thrives in the presence of sugar so this conclusion makes a lot of sense. Additionally, anything containing caffeine had the same effect. Alcohol also causes a great deal of pain even in the smallest amounts, and is very bad for kidneys that are trying to heal from the effects of an infection. I found that if I avoided the aforementioned, in addition to a lot of strenuous exercise or movement, the pain was at its lowest point. If I stayed out long nights, started the morning with a non-decaf drink, and ate crappy carb loaded meals I had to deal with the serious repercussions of pain. (And for me that meant every day all the time as my kidneys were never really healed from infection).

Likewise, eating right can alter the effects of the infection or the healing process on your kidneys. Cranberry and mangosteen juices are excellent for dealing with kidney problems and can help the kidneys to heal and become very healthy. Getting enough sleep at night, as basic as it sounds, also does wonders. It allows your system time to heal with nothing else going on and the stress on your kidneys is greatly reduced which means less pain for you when you wake up.

Kidney infections are fairly easy to treat and easy to test for. If you are exhibiting the symptoms, your doctor will most likely conduct an analysis of your urine to check for the presence of red and white blood cells. Further tests include a culture to see what kinds of bacteria grow from your sample, which will be a deciding factor in what kind of treatment you receive. (Infections, 2006). If the infection is serious, CTs or sonograms are also often ordered to check for enlargement in the kidneys. Treatments include a 7-14 day course of antibiotics. This alone usually clears the infection. However, your doctor will want to have a urine sample done after the course has finished to make sure the bacteria has completely left your system.

If you are experiencing chronic kidney infections your doctor will want to know several things about your lifestyle. These sorts of things will help him to make correlations between your frequent infections and their source.
1. Do you notice an infection come on waiting too long to use the restroom?
2. Do you notice any burning or discomfort, or an infection onset after sexual intercourse?
3. Do you have any other chronic ailments? (throat infections, heart problems, liver problems, etc�)
4. Do you have a weak immune system? (Your doctor can check your immune system if needed.)
These sorts of things, and anything else you notice surrounding your infections might be able to help the doctor a great deal. Your doctor will be able to watch your infections and trace the bacteria each time to see if it is the same, this is also of use when diagnosing the problem. It can generally lead to a faster diagnosis as to the source. Unfortunately for me, I am out of the country often and visit so many different hospitals, mine was never traced. It is highly advised that you see the same physician and have them trace the bacteria, your treatment will proceed much smoother that way.

Overall UTIs are fairly common. As mentioned earlier, most women get them at some point in their life. Kidney infections when treated in a timely manner can leave the kidneys healthy after a strong dose of antibiotics and a fair deal of rest. However, if left untreated these infections can cause scarring on the kidneys. They can even lead to kidney failure and death. However, this is rare (Infections, 2006) and it certainly doesn’t have to be case with all the readily available treatments.

Chronic kidney infections affect your life in so many ways, and none are pleasant. They cause you to lose precious time that you could be spending actually living. The constant pain and fatigue, and the stress of dealing with them can be too much to handle at times. So don’t let it continue. The process of finding their source can sometimes be long and drawn out, and for those lucky ones it can be short and quick. However, once it is done and the source of the problem, however painful it may be (tonsillectomyâÂ?¦ouch!) it is worth it in the end.

I am now in the recovery stages of my surgery and in a much better state than I previously was. I am still battling the latest kidney infection and related problems, but am hopeful that this will be the last infection for a long time. Slowly, I am trying to regain a positive attitude and outlook on life. Dealing with any chronic problem can take a massive toll on one’s mind and depression is a hard thing to fight. Soon enough though, I’ll be able to get back to that faster paced life I once enjoyed.

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