Pyelonephritis vs Glomerulonephritis

This article reveals the differences between pyelonephritis and glomerulonephritis:

Pyelonephritis (Kidney Infection)

It is a type of urinary tract infection where one or both kidneys become infected. Bacteria commonly infect the bladder or the urethra (the tube which empties urine from the bladder) and spreads to one of the kidneys.

Pregnant women are more likely to get bladder infections as the baby can put extra pressure on the woman’s ureters and slow the flow of urine. A man is more likely to develop the infection if his prostate is enlarged.


  • acute – it is a sudden and severe kidney infection. It results from bacterial invasion of the renal parenchyma. Most episodes are cured with no residual renal damage and are uncomplicated;
  • chronic – it occurs when repeated or persistent attacks occur. It is usually suspected in patients with a history of recurrent urinary tract infections. It usually occurs if there is a problem that causes urine to flow backward from the bladder and up into the kidneys.


Symptoms may include:

  • jumbled speech;
  • chills;
  • hallucinations;
  • fever;
  • confusion;
  • pain in the back, side, or groin;
  • frequent, painful urination;
  • cloudy, dark, or foul-smelling urine;
  • vomiting;
  • nausea.

Note – kids younger than two years of age may only present with a high fever.


  • perinephric abscess (a collection of suppurative material in the perinephric space);
  • blood poisoning (septicemia);
  • kidney scarring.

Note – you are unlikely to get complications if your kidneys worked properly before you developed this infection.


It is caused by bacteria or a virus that infects the kidneys. Commonly, bacteria called E. coli cause the infection.

Risk Factors

They include:

  • prostate enlargement;
  • neurogenic bladder (a dysfunction of the urinary bladder);
  • structural renal abnormalities, including vesicoureteric reflux;
  • immunocompromised patients;
  • primary biliary cirrhosis;
  • diabetes;
  • pregnancy;
  • stents or drainage procedures.


Diagnostic techniques include culture, urinalysis, and imaging tests. In women, in order to rule out other similar conditions, a pelvic exam may be required.


The condition needs prompt treatment with antibiotics. Typically, you will need to take an antibiotic for at least a week. Also, your healthcare provider may prescribe an analgesic if there is any pain.

If the infection is not treated, it can get worse and occasionally may cause permanent kidney damage. If antibiotics haven’t started to work within 24 hours of starting them, you may require to go into the hospital for medical treatment.

If a blockage in the urinary tract has caused the infection, you might require surgery urgently.


Most sufferers with uncomplicated cases of kidney infection find that their symptoms start to improve after 1 to 2 days of treatment with antibiotics.

The course of chronic kidney infection is extremely variable, however, the majority of sufferers have adequate renal function for over 2 decades after onset.


Prevention methods include:

  • avoid using products in the genital area, like – bubble baths, strong soaps, and scented sanitary napkins;
  • wipe from front to back after a bowel movement and after urinating;
  • make sure you pass urine as soon as possible after sex, especially if you tend to get UTIs after having sex;
  • getting prompt treatment for cystitis will reduce the risk of spreading the infection to the kidneys;
  • urinate as soon as you need to;
  • drink fluids, especially water. Some people drink cranberry juice to prevent urinary tract infections.

Glomerulonephritis (GN)

It is an inflammation of the glomeruli (they act as tiny filters within the kidneys) -structures in the kidneys that are made up of blood vessels.

The condition can come on suddenly (acute) or gradually (chronic).

Acute GN

It can be a response to an infection like – an abscessed tooth or strep throat. Symptoms of AGN include:

  • high blood pressure;
  • extra fluid in the lungs;
  • blood in the urine;
  • urinating less often;
  • puffiness in the face.

Chronic GN

It may develop silently over a few years. It can lead to irreversible damage to the kidney and glomeruli. Symptoms may include:

  • bubbles or foam in the urine;
  • urinating frequently, especially during the night;
  • swollen ankles or face;
  • high blood pressure;
  • blood or protein in the urine.


Complications can include:

  • kidney failure;
  • problems with other internal organs;
  • high blood pressure.


Some of the problems which can lead to the condition include:

  • vasculitis;
  • IgA nephropathy;
  • Goodpasture syndrome;
  • lupus;
  • hepatitis C;
  • hepatitis B;
  • bacterial infection of the heart;
  • taking more than the recommended dose of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs;
  • strep throat;
  • cancer;
  • diabetes mellitus;
  • high blood pressure.

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Risk Factors

Some of the risk factors include:

  • amyloidosis;
  • heart infections;
  • viral infections;
  • recurring skin abscesses or strep infections;
  • exposure to chemicals like toxic hydrocarbon solvents;
  • personal history of cancer or malignant tumors;
  • blood disorders;
  • disorders of the lymphatic system.


If your doctor suspects the condition, he will typically arrange:

  • a kidney biopsy;
  • a urine test;
  • imaging tests;
  • a blood test.

Note – chronic GN develops gradually, hence, your healthcare provider may not be able to tell exactly when it began.

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Treatment will depend on the severity of symptoms as well as on the underlying cause. Severe cases are occasionally treated with immunosuppressants (a class of medications that suppress the strength of the immune system).


Acute GN resolves completely in most cases, particularly in children. The prognosis of chronic GN depends on the severity of the symptoms. In general, it can be a life-threatening disorder.

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Preventions methods include:

  • controlling high blood pressure;
  • maintaining basic hygiene;
  • controlling your blood sugar levels;
  • avoiding smoking;
  • maintaining a healthy BMI;
  • controlling autoimmune disorders;
  • practicing safe sex;
  • avoiding exposure to organic solvents, mercury, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory analgesics.

Bottom Line – Pyelonephritis vs Glomerulonephritis

Pyelonephritis is a kidney infection that is typically caused by pathogenic bacteria that have traveled to the kidney from an infection in the bladder. Also, it is often associated with high blood pressure. Symptoms of a kidney infection usually include a sudden onset of chills, fever, and pain with costovertebral tenderness.

Glomerulonephritis is inflammation of the tiny filters in the kidneys. It can be acute or chronic. It can be caused by numerous disorders, like infections or autoimmune disorders.

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