What is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)?
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of a woman's reproductive organs, which includes the uterus, cervix, ovaries, and fallopian tubes.
PID is often caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs, also referred to as sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs), such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. However, PID may also be cause by other infections that are not sexually transmitted.
What are risk factors for getting pelvic inflammatory disease?
Risk factors for developing pelvic inflammatory disease include:
- Untreated sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Multiple sexual partners
- Having a sexual partner who has multiple sexual partners besides you
- Previous PID infection
- Being sexually active and age 25 or younger
- Using an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control (this risk is mostly limited to the first three weeks after the IUD is inserted)
What are symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease?
Symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease may range from mild to severe. Some women do not experience any symptoms. When symptoms of PID occur, they may include
- Pain in the lower abdomen (most common symptom)
- Unusual vaginal discharge with a foul odor
- Painful sexual intercourse and/or bleeding when you have sex
- Bleeding between periods/irregular menstrual periods
- Burning sensation or pain when urinating
- Pain in the upper right abdomen (rare)
How is pelvic inflammatory disease diagnosed?
There are no specific tests for pelvic inflammatory disease, but it can often be diagnosed during a pelvic exam. A doctor will check for any pain or tenderness and abnormal vaginal discharge. Swabs may be taken from the inside of the vagina and cervix to test for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and sexually transmitted other infections. Samples of urine, blood, and/or fluids from your vagina and cervix may also be taken.
Other tests that may be performed to confirm a diagnosis of PID include ultrasound, endometrial biopsy (removal of a tissue sample from the lining of the uterus), and laparoscopy (a tiny camera is inserted through a small cut in the belly button to visualize the reproductive organs).
Pelvic inflammatory disease can increase the risk of developing some cancers.
Pelvic inflammatory disease may increase the risk of developing both ovarian and cervical cancers. Many women with PID have HPV (human papilloma virus, the virus that causes genital warts), which is a risk factor for cervical cancer. The increased risk of ovarian cancer is small.
The chances of getting pregnant ____ if you have had pelvic inflammatory disease.
If you have had pelvic inflammatory disease more than once the chances of getting pregnant may be lower. In PID, bacteria can enter the fallopian tubes and can result in scarring, which can block an egg traveling from the ovary to the uterus.
What are complications of pelvic inflammatory disease?
If pelvic inflammatory disease is not diagnosed and treated early, complications may include:
- Scar tissue in the fallopian tubes that can lead to tubal blockage
- Ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the uterus)
- Chronic pelvic/abdominal pain
The risk of developing pelvic inflammatory disease can be reduced by…
Pelvic inflammatory disease is not always preventable, since it may be caused by normal bacteria in the vagina that can travel up to the reproductive organs. To reduce the risk of developing PID, do not douche. This removes healthy bacteria that can protect against infection.
The other way to reduce the risk of developing PID is to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The most effective way to do this is to avoid vaginal, oral, or anal sex but this is not always possible or desirable so if you do have sex, take the following precautions to prevent STI:
- Use condoms. Other methods of birth control will not protect against STIs.
- Limit your number of sexual partners.
- Get tested for STIs before having sex, and remain monogamous after getting tested.
- Do not abuse alcohol or drugs, which can increase risky behavior and result in unintended exposure to STIs.
Can pelvic inflammatory disease be cured?
Antibiotics can cure pelvic inflammatory disease when it is diagnosed early. Take the entire course of antibiotics as prescribed even if you're feeling better, to make sure the infection goes away completely. In severe cases of PID, hospitalization with intravenous antibiotics may be required. It is common for sexual partner(s) to also be treated as they may still be infected with the bacteria that can cause PID.
Treatment won't undo any damage that has already occurred, such as scarring of the fallopian tubes. Delayed treatment for PIDS increases the risk of complications such as infertility or future ectopic pregnancy.
PID infection can recur if you are infected with another STI, and once you have had PID your chances of developing it again are increased.
Images provided by:
CDC. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) - CDC Fact Sheet.
Planned Parenthood. How do I get tested or treated for PID?
American Association for Cancer Research. Is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease a Risk Factor for Ovarian Cancer?
Eur J Gynaecol Oncol. Pelvic inflammatory disease is a risk factor for cervical cancer.
WomensHealth.gov. Pelvic inflammatory disease
WomensHealth.gov. Pelvic inflammatory disease
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