Difference Between Pyelitis and Pyelonephritis

Kidneys have a special role in the body. These clean the blood by removing waste and extra water. They also balance the number of chemicals in the body. The inflammation of the kidney is referred to as nephritis. Some inflammatory diseases include glomerulonephritis, pyelonephritis, etc. These need to be diagnosed by a doctor for proper treatment.

Pyelitis vs Pyelonephritis

The main difference between pyelitis and pyelonephritis is that pyelitis mainly affects the renal pelvis resulting in inflammation along the renal pelvis lining. On the other hand, pyelonephritis results in inflammation of the renal pelvis along with the main renal tissue i.e., calyces, parenchyma. Pyelonephritis is a combination of pyelitis and nephritis.

yelitis vs Pyelonephritis

Pyelitis is the condition of pus-forming along the pelvis present in the kidney. When it is primary, it may occur from injury or cold, however, the presence of renal sand or calculi in the pelvis is a more appropriate cause of the same. It starts with the enlarging of the urinary bladder. It then moves upwards via ureters.

Pyelonephritis leads to inflammation of the kidney resulting in fever, burning while urinating, increase in urine, and flank tenderness. In severe cases, kidney failure or sepsis, or pus may form around the kidney. It usually occurs from a bacterial infection mainly Escherichia coli. Infection commonly reaches the urinary tract.

Parameters of ComparisonPyelitisPyelonephritis
DefinitionInflammation of renal pelvis, a part of the kidneyInflammation of the entire kidney
Quantity of urineSameIncrease
Change in the condition of urineLittle changeA good amount of renal debris in the urine; change in the composition too
Severity of symptomsLess severe when compared to pyelonephritisMore severe symptoms as compared to pyelitis
Begins asStarts as the inflammation of the bladder, extending upwardBegins in the kidney and moves downwards

What is Pyelitis?

Pyelitis is an infection occurring in the renal pelvis occurring due to a bacterial infection. It usually occurs when one ignores an infection in the lower urinary tract allowing it to move upwards and reach the renal pelvis. In other cases, the accumulation of unnoticed kidney stones may also lead to pyelitis. Cases of its occurrence are more in women as compared to men.

Symptoms include high fever comprising shivering, sickness, burning sensation while urinating, pain in and around the kidney. Sometimes, pyelitis can be chronic and symptoms are less severe. It is identified through the medical history of the patient, his symptoms as well as a urine and blood examination.

When a backup of the urine is suspected, further examinations comprising x-ray imaging, ultrasound examination, or cystoscopy need to be carried out.

It causes a change in the calices and pelvis, often accompanied by an infection in the parenchyma. Infection in the parenchyma usually clears up since the role of pyelitis is secondary to the infection. Acute pyelitis is uncommon and it commonly shows the degree of pyelonephritis. It is differentiated with accuracy from pyelonephritis only through tests.

It can normally be healed with antibiotics, without the involvement of sequelae. In case of a urine backup, it needs to be treated urgently to avoid blood poisoning.

What is Pyelonephritis?

It is a severe form of infection in the kidney. It has the potential of permanently damaging the kidneys. It can even cause a threat to life in very severe cases. Chronic pyelonephritis is uncommon, with cases being common in people or children that face urinary obstructions.

There can be a variety of symptoms of pyelonephritis. These may be different in children and adults However, common symptoms include:

  • Burn or a pain sensation during urine
  • Presence of blood or pus while urinating
  • High fever, more than 38.9°C
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Confusion in the mind
  • Feeling ill or aching
  • Chills in the body

The most common cause of the disease is the bacteria E. coli. Though, a severe infection in the bloodstream may also reach the kidneys and lead to acute pyelonephritis. In general, women are at a higher risk of this infection than men. Other people facing increased amounts of risk include:

  • Older adults
  • People having an enlarged prostate
  • People suffering from other diseases that have weakened their immune system such as cancer, diabetes, AIDS.
  • People having vesicoureteral reflux, in which minute amounts of urine travel from the urinary bladder into the kidney

It can be diagnosed through urine tests, imaging tests, and radioactive imaging. In acute cases, it can be cured through antibiotics such as ampicillin, levofloxacin, ciprofloxacin, etc.

Main Differences Between Pyelitis and Pyelonephritis

  1. Pyelitis is an inflammation of a part of the kidney that is the renal pelvis whereas pyelonephritis leads to inflammation of the whole kidney.
  2. The quantity of urine remains the same in the case of pyelitis. On the other hand, the amount of urine increases in pyelonephritis.
  3. In pyelitis, there is hardly any change in the urine. However, in pyelonephritis, considerable renal debris is found in the urine. The composition of urine changes too.
  4. Symptoms of pyelitis are less severe when compared to those of pyelonephritis.
  5. Pyelitis extends upwards after appearing as an inflammation of the bladder. On the other hand, pyelonephritis begins as a kidney infection and moves downwards.


Pyelitis and Pyelonephritis are both infections with the main difference between them being that the former affects a part of the kidney whereas the latter affects the whole kidney. In terms of symptoms too, pyelitis is much less severe. In addition to this, pyelonephritis can be life-threatening at times.

 Both these infections can be distinguished from each other only by proper tests. These are more common in women than men. They can be treated with antibiotics and proper care. It is advisable to visit the doctor to get it diagnosed to avoid future complications.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4668507/
  2. https://www.translationalres.com/article/0022-2143(62)90227-5/abstract
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