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Pelvic Inflammatory Disease


Topic Overview

What is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)?

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of a woman's reproductive organs. See a picture of the organs inside the pelvisClick here to see an illustration..

Treating PID right away is important, because PID can cause scar tissue in the pelvic organs and lead to infertility. It can also lead to other problems, such as pelvic pain and tubal (ectopic) pregnancy.

What causes PID?

PID is caused by bacteria entering the reproductive organs through the cervix. When the cervix is infected, bacteria from the vagina can more easily get into and infect the uterus and fallopian tubes.

You may be more likely to get PID if you:

  • Have a sexually transmitted infection (STI). The most common causes of PID are gonorrhea and chlamydia.
  • Are at risk for STIs. You are at higher risk for STIs if you are young and you don't use condoms when you have sex. Having more than one sex partner also increases your risk for STIs.
  • Have bacterial vaginosis, which is not an STI.
  • Douche.
  • Have recently had an IUD inserted or had an abortion.
  • Had PID before.

What are the symptoms?

At first, PID may not cause any symptoms or may cause only mild symptoms, such as bleeding or discharge from the vagina. Some women don't even know they have it. They only find out later, when they can't get pregnant or they have pelvic pain.

As the infection spreads, the most common symptom is pain in the lower belly. The pain has been described as crampy or as a dull and constant ache. It may be worse during sex, bowel movements, or when you urinate. Some women also have a fever.

How is PID diagnosed?

Even though PID causes mild or no symptoms, it can still cause serious problems. So you need to understand what puts you at risk for PID or STIs and see your doctor if you have any unusual symptoms.

Your doctor will ask about your lifestyle and symptoms. He or she will examine you and do tests to see if you have PID. The test results may take some time. For this reason, your doctor will treat you for the disease before the test results are ready. Treating PID early is important to prevent problems later on.

Your doctor may test you for the most common causes of PID and may also do blood tests to look for signs of infection. Your doctor may also order an ultrasound to see if there are other possible causes of your symptoms. An ultrasound may also show if there is damage to the fallopian tubes, uterus, or ovaries from PID.

How is it treated?

To treat PID, you will need to take antibiotics. Take them as directed. If you don't take all of the medicine, the infection may come back.

If your infection was caused by an STI, your sex partner(s) will also need to be treated so you don't get infected again. Do not have sex until both of you have finished your medicine, and be sure to follow up with your doctor to make certain that the treatment is working.

If you have a very bad case of PID or are pregnant and infected, you may need to stay in the hospital and get antibiotics through a vein (intravenous). Sometimes surgery is needed to drain a pocket of infection, called an abscess.

Can you prevent PID?

Your risk of infertility increases each time you have PID, so it is very important to prevent future infections. Using a condom each time you have sex can reduce your chance of getting an STI that could lead to PID.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about pelvic inflammatory disease (PID):

Being diagnosed:

Getting treatment:

Ongoing concerns:

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