In the United States, about 8.1 million health care visits each year are due to having a urinary tract infection, according to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse.
A urinary tract infection occurs when bacteria enters the individual’s urethra — the tube that transports urine from the bladder out of the body. Once the bacteria enters the urethra, it can spread to the bladder, and then to the kidneys.
In rare cases, the infection can affect the ureters, the area of the body that transports the urine from each of the kidneys to the bladder.
When a urinary tract infection is treated, the individual may not experience any complications. However, if the urinary tract infection is left untreated, several complications may occur.
Chronic or acute pyelonephritis, or a kidney infection, can occur when a urinary tract infection is not treated. Individuals who have either acute pyelonephritis or chronic pyelonephritis may develop permanent kidney scars.
These scars may lead to serious kidney problems, such as kidney failure and chronic kidney disease, according to the National Kidney and Urological Diseases Information Clearinghouse. High blood pressure may also occur.
In some cases of untreated urinary tract infections, the infection can spread to the individual’s bloodstream, called sepsis. Sepsis may also occur with pyelonephritis.
The risk for this complication is higher in individuals who have lowered immune systems, or those who are very old or young, according MedlinePlus. When an individual has developed sepsis, her blood pressure drops and her major organs stop working properly.
Symptoms include warm skin, chills, lightheadedness, fever or hypothermia, confusion and shaking. Hyperventilation, decreased urine output, skin rash and a rapid heartbeat may also occur.
Individuals with sepsis will be hospitalized for treatment.
Complications Specific to Pregnant Women
Women who are pregnant face additional complications for an untreated urinary tract infection. The MayoClinic.com noted that the risk of having a premature birth or delivering an infant with a low birth weight increases when a pregnant woman has a urinary tract infection.
National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Urinary Tract Infection in Adults. Web. 30 May 2012
National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Pyelonephritis: Kidney Infection. Web. 30 May 2012
University of Maryland Medical Center. Urinary Tract Infection – Complications. Web. 30 May 2012
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Sepsis. Web. 30 May 2012
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Urinary Tract Infection – Adults. Web. 30 May 2012
MayoClinic.com. Urinary Tract Infection: Complications. Web. 30 May 2012
Reviewed May 30, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
Add a Comment4 Comments
I have been struggling with UTIs since I was 18 years old and the Lady Soma Cranberry Pills work faster than other products to relieve the pain with my UTIs. I use this while I am waiting to get in to see the doctor to relieve my pain and/or while I am waiting the the antibiotics to start working which usually takes anywhere from 12-24 hours.
This stuff helps to alleviate the pain (burning, urgency, etc) associated with UTIs within 20-40 minutes of taking the pills.November 20, 2016 - 5:36pm
Thank you for your reply. One thing I'm wondering which is UTI and kidney infection are they the same thing? When I went to the urologist he didn't see any problem especially when he did a kidney ultrasound. I experienced having symptoms of kidney infection twice and he told me if I experience such problem again I should see a gastroenterologist. Sounds awkward for me to see such doctor because if I have symptoms of kidney infection and especially when I feel pain in my back when I was going to the bathroom wouldn't it be right to see the urologist? If in case I experience such problem again do you think it sounds right that I see the urologist again? Please let me know.
Thank You,May 31, 2012 - 3:34pm
Thank you so much for addressing this serious topic. Unfortunately, many people do not take UTIs seriously. We know of several people who developed sepsis, some of whom died, after getting a UTI. One of the women featured on our site died alone, in a motel room, after leaving her UTI untreated. She was only 23.
All infections must be taken and treated seriously.May 31, 2012 - 4:49am
Since you brought such topic up their is something that I really need to know. First thing I want to know is urinary tract infection is it another way of saying kidney infection? Yesterday I went to the urologist because of symptoms of kidney infection and I mentioned that I feel pain below the left side of my stomach to the left side of my back all the way down to my left leg. I felt alot of pain, pressure and burning sensation mostly in my left leg. Since your saying if left untreated it can cause complications I'm afraid of this. I was also experiencing symptoms of being out of breathe from time to time, I felt very hot from time to time, feeling nausea, constipated and painful from the left side of my back when I go to the bathroom. Do you think this is symptoms of UTI kidney infection?
The urologist only examined my abdomen and told me if such thing happens again I should see a gastroenterologist. Sounds awkward for me to see such doctor because if I felt pain from my back whenever I went to the bathroom, wouldn't this mean that it's kidney infection? I'm feeling better now but I'm afraid if I just leave it and become some kind of problem. He did a kidney ultrasound and didn't see any problem. I hope I don't experience such thing again but if in case I do, do you think it's right that I go back to the urologist? Please let me know.
Thank You,May 30, 2012 - 7:28pm