Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the woman’s reproductive organs. As of 2013, about 88,000 women ages 15–44 in the United States were diagnosed with a Pelvic inflammatory disease.
The pelvic inflammatory disease is often caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI), and if left untreated, can cause problems getting pregnant, problems during pregnancy, and long-term pelvic pain.
The pelvis is in the lower abdomen and includes
- the fallopian tubes,
- the ovaries,
- the cervix, and
- The uterus.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Pelvic inflammatory disease condition is common and affects about 1 million women each year in the United States.
Several different types of bacteria can cause Pelvic inflammatory disease, including the same bacteria that cause sexually transmitted infections (STIs) gonorrhea and chlamydia.
What commonly occurs is that bacteria first enter the vagina and cause an infection, then over time, this infection can move into the pelvic organs.
Causes Of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Many types of bacteria can cause Pelvic inflammatory disease, but gonorrhea or chlamydia infections are the most common. These bacteria are usually picked up during unprotected sex.
Less commonly, bacteria can enter your reproductive tract anytime the normal barrier created by the cervix is disturbed, like after childbirth, miscarriage or abortion.
Risk Factors For Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Your risk of PID increases if you have gonorrhea or chlamydia. However, you can develop Pelvic inflammatory disease without ever having an STI. Other factors that can cause PID, include:
- being under the age of 25
- having sex
- having sex with multiple partners
- having unprotected sex without a condom
- using an intrauterine device (IUD) to prevent a pregnancy
- douching, and
- having a history of PID
Most experts now agree that it is not significant that having an intrauterine device (IUD) inserted to increase the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease. Any potential risk is generally within the first three weeks after insertion of the device.
Symptoms Of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Some women with PID don’t have symptoms, but for those who do have, symptoms can include:
- pain in the lower abdomen
- pain in the upper abdomen
- painful sex
- painful urination
- irregular bleeding
- increased or foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- mild or moderate pain, however, some women have severe pain like a sharp pain in the abdomen
- fainting, and
- a high fever (greater than 101°F)
If you have severe symptoms, call your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room, because, the infection can spread to your bloodstream or other parts of your body, which can be a life-threatening condition.
Complications Of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
An untreated pelvic inflammatory disease might cause scar tissue, and you might also develop collections of infected fluid (abscesses) in your fallopian tubes. This could potentially damage your reproductive organs.
Complications might include:
The pelvic inflammatory disease is a major cause of tubal (ectopic) pregnancy, where the scar tissue from Pelvic inflammatory disease prevents the fertilized egg from making its way through the fallopian tube to implant in the uterus.
Ectopic pregnancy requires emergency medical attention and can cause massive, life-threatening bleeding.
The pelvic inflammatory disease might damage your reproductive organs and cause infertility (the inability to become pregnant). The more times you’ve had a Pelvic inflammatory disease, the greater your risk of infertility.
Delaying treatment for Pelvic inflammatory disease also dramatically increases your risk of barrenness.
Chronic Pelvic Pain
PID can cause pelvic pain that might last for a long time, even years. Scarring in the fallopian tubes and other pelvic organs can cause serious pain during intercourse and ovulation.
The pelvic inflammatory disease might cause an abscess (a collection of pus) to form in your uterine tube and ovaries, and if left untreated, could develop into a life-threatening infection.
Diagnosis For Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
To diagnose Pelvic inflammatory disease, doctors usually do a physical exam to check for signs of Pelvic inflammatory disease and test for STIs.
If you think that you may have gotten a Pelvic inflammatory disease, see a doctor or nurse as soon as possible, likewise if you have pain in your lower abdomen.
Your doctor or nurse will check for:
- Unusual discharge from your vagina
- An abscess near your ovaries or fallopian tubes
- Inflammation or pain in your reproductive organs
Your doctor may do tests to ascertain whether you have a pelvicPelvic inflammatory disease or a different problem that looks like PID.
Such test includes:
- Tests for STIs, like gonorrhea and chlamydia, which can cause PID.
- A test for a urinary tract infection UTI, or other conditions that can cause pelvic pain
- Ultrasound or another imaging test to look at your internal organs for signs of PID
How Is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Treated?
Your doctor will expect you to take antibiotics to treat Pelvic inflammatory disease. Initially, your doctor may not know the type of bacteria that caused your infection so they may give you two different types of antibiotics to treat a variety of bacteria.
Within a few days of starting treatment, symptoms may improve or go away, but you should still finish your medication, even if you are feeling better. Stopping your medication early may cause the Pelvic inflammatory disease infection to return.
If you are sick or pregnant, or can’t swallow pills, your doctor may send you to the hospital for treatment. Likewise, if you have an abscess in your pelvis,
It will be wise to see your doctor or nurse again two to three days after starting the antibiotics to make sure they are working.
Your doctor or nurse may suggest going into the hospital if they observe the following:
- You are very sick
- You are pregnant
- Your symptoms do not go away after taking the antibiotics or
- You cannot swallow pills and will need IV antibiotics.
- You have an abscess in a fallopian tube or ovary
If you still have symptoms or if the abscess does not go away after treatment, you may need surgery to fix this problem.
Problems caused by Pelvic inflammatory diseases, such as chronic pelvic pain and scarring, are often hard to treat, but sometimes they get better after surgery.
Surgery is rare and only necessary if an abscess in your pelvis ruptures or your doctor suspects that an abscess will rupture. Surgery can also be necessary if the infection does not respond to treatment.
You may be asked to abstain from sexual intercourse until the infection has been fixed.
The bacteria that cause Pelvic inflammatory disease can spread through sexual contact, so, if you are sexually active, your partner should also get treated for a Pelvic inflammatory disease.
Men may be silent carriers of bacteria that cause pelvic inflammatory disease, and your infection can recur if your partner doesn’t receive treatment.
Prevention Of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
- Practice safe sex, use condoms every time you have sex, limit your number of sex partners, and ask about the sexual history of a potential partner.
- Talk to your doctor about contraception, since many forms of contraception do not protect against the development of a Pelvic inflammatory disease. Unlike birth control pills, using barrier methods, such as a condom, might help to reduce your risk, and protect against STIs.
- Get tested to know if you’re at risk of an STI, such as chlamydia. Make an appointment with your doctor for testing, and set up a regular screening schedule with your doctor if needed. Early treatment of an STI gives you the best chance of avoiding Pelvic inflammatory disease.
- Request that your partner is tested, as this can prevent the spread of STIs and possible recurrence of PID. If you have PID or an STI, advise your partner to be tested and, if necessary, treated.
- Don’t douche, as douching upsets the balance of bacteria in your vagina.
Without treatment, a Pelvic inflammatory disease can lead to serious problems like infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain. If you think you may have a Pelvic inflammatory disease, see a doctor as soon as possible.
Antibiotics will treat Pelvic inflammatory disease, but they will not fix any permanent damage done to your internal organs.
Your chances of getting pregnant are lower if you have had PID more than once, and if the bacteria can get into the fallopian tubes or cause inflammation of the fallopian tubes.
This can cause scarring in the tissue that makes up your fallopian tubes, which can block an egg from your ovary from entering or traveling down the fallopian tube to your uterus (womb).
The egg needs to be fertilized and attach to your uterus for pregnancy to happen. Thus, even having just a little scar tissue can keep you from getting pregnant without fertility treatment.
It is possible to get a Pelvic inflammatory disease or an STI if you are a woman who has sex only with women (lesbians).
In this case, talk to your partner about her sexual history before having sex, and ask your doctor about getting tested if you have signs or symptoms of a Pelvic inflammatory disease.
A pelvic inflammatory disease is a very treatable condition and most women make a full recovery following treatment. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10% to 15% of women with a Pelvic inflammatory disease will have difficulty getting pregnant.
Pregnancy is still possible for most women, especially with early treatment.