Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive organs that occurs when bacteria spread from your vagina to your uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries, usually through sexual intercourse.
In most cases, pelvic inflammatory disease causes no signs or symptoms. As a result, you might not realize you have the condition and get needed treatment. The condition might be diagnosed later after you’ve had fertility issues or if you develop chronic pelvic pain.
Symptoms of PID
Signs and symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease might include:
- Pain in your lower abdomen and pelvis
- Foul smelling vaginal discharge
- Painful or difficult urination
- Abnormal uterine bleeding, especially during or after intercourse, or between menstrual cycles
- Pain or bleeding during intercourse
- Fever, sometimes with chills
In severe cases, PID symptoms may include:
- Severe lower abdominal or pelvic pain
- Bowel discomfort
Causes of PID
Gonorrhea or chlamydia infections are the most common causes of PID, though other types of infections also causes the disease. These bacteria are usually gotten during unprotected sex with an infected partner.
A number of factors might increase your risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, including:
- Having multiple sexual partners
- Being in a sexual relationship with a person who has more than one sex partner
- Being a sexually active woman younger than 25 years old
- Having sex without a protective barrier
- Douching regularly, which upsets the balance of good versus harmful bacteria in the vagina
- History of PID or a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
If left untreated, pelvic inflammatory disease might cause scar tissue. You might also develop collections of infected fluid (abscesses) in your fallopian tubes, which could damage your reproductive organs.
- PID might make it difficult for a woman to conceive. The more times you’ve had PID, the greater your risk of infertility. Delaying treatment for PID also dramatically increases your risk of infertility.
- Ectopic pregnancy.PID is a major cause of tubal (ectopic) pregnancy. In an ectopic pregnancy, the scar tissue from PID prevents the fertilized egg from making its way through the fallopian tube to implant in the uterus.
- Chronic pelvic pain.Pelvic inflammatory disease can cause pelvic pain that might last for months or years. Scarring in your fallopian tubes and other pelvic organs can cause pain during intercourse and ovulation.
- Tubo-ovarian abscess.PID might cause a collection of pus to form in your uterine tube and ovaries. You could develop a deadly infection if left untreated.
To reduce your risk of pelvic inflammatory disease:
- Practice safe sex by using condoms every time you have sex, limit your number of partners.
- Talk to your doctor about contraception.Many forms of contraception do not protect against the development of PID. Taking birth control pills cannot protect you against STIs.
- Get tested.If you’re at risk of an STI, such as chlamydia, make an appointment with your doctor for testing. Set up a regular screening schedule with your doctor if needed. Early treatment of an STI gives you the best chance of avoiding PID.
- Request that your partner be tested.If you have pelvic inflammatory disease or an STI, advise your partner to be tested and, if necessary, treated. This can prevent the spread of STIs and possible recurrence of PID.
- Don’t douche.Douching upsets the balance of bacteria in your vagina.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you experience:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe pain low in your abdomen
- Fever, with a temperature higher than 101 F (38.3 C)
- Smelly vaginal discharge
- Painful urination
- Bleeding between periods
Doctors use signs, symptoms, pelvic exam, examination of vaginal discharge and cervical cultures or urine tests to diagnose pelvic inflammatory disease.
To confirm the diagnosis or to determine how widespread the infection is, your doctor might recommend:
- Blood and urine tests.These tests will measure your white blood cell count, which might indicate an infection, and markers that suggest inflammation. Your doctor also might recommend tests for HIV and sexually transmitted infections, which are sometimes associated with PID.
- This test uses sound waves to create images of your reproductive organs.
- This involves your doctor inserting a thin, lighted instrument through a small incision in your abdomen to view your pelvic organs.
Treatment for PID
Treatments for pelvic inflammatory disease include:
- Your doctor will prescribe a combination of antibiotics to start treatment while awaiting your lab test results. After receiving your results, your doctor might adjust your prescription to better match what’s causing the infection. You will likely follow up with your doctor after three days to make sure the treatment is working. Ensure you take all of your medication, even if you start to feel better after a few days.
To prevent re-infection with an STI, your sexual partner should be examined and treated. Infected partners might not show any noticeable symptoms.
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