Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of a woman’s reproductive organs, including the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and cervix. It can be caused by certain types of bacteria, usually bacteria from a sexually transmitted infection, but PID can also be caused by bacteria from other non-sexually transmitted infections. If left untreated, PID can cause fertility problems and long-term pelvic pain. Pelvic inflammatory disease is common with over one million cases diagnosed each year.
Signs and Symptoms of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Many women are unaware they have PID because they show no signs or symptoms. If there are symptoms, they may range from mild to severe.
Signs and symptoms include:
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Fever or chills
- Vaginal discharge that may have a foul smell
- Painful sex
- Pain when urinating
- Extreme exhaustion
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Pain in the upper right abdomen (rare)
PID can develop quickly, with extreme pain and fever (especially if caused by gonorrhea).
Causes and Diagnosis of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Pelvic inflammatory disease is caused by bacteria moving up from the vagina or cervix into the reproductive organs. While many different types of bacteria can cause PID, it is usually caused by infection from gonorrhea and chlamydia. A PID can also be caused by normal bacteria traveling up into the reproductive organs. This can sometimes occur because of douching.
There are no tests for PID. If you think you may have pelvic inflammatory disease it is important to contact a doctor who will diagnose PID based on a combination of your medical history, physical exam and other test results.
If you have pain in your lower abdomen, your doctor or nurse will check for:
- Unusual discharge from your vagina or cervix
- An abscess near your ovaries or fallopian tubes
- Tenderness or pain in your reproductive organs
In order to rule out other conditions that may look similar to PID, your doctor may perform other tests including:
- Tests for STIs, especially gonorrhea and chlamydia
- Tests for other infections or conditions that can cause pelvic pain such as a urinary tract infection
- An ultrasound or other imaging test to look at signs of PID in internal organs
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Prevention
One way to prevent pelvic inflammatory disease is to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases, as PID is often caused by chlamydia or gonorrhea. Since most people with these STDs don’t often experience symptoms, testing is the best way to know if an infection is present. Both chlamydia and gonorrhea can be easily treated and cured with antibiotics.
Abstain from douching— this practice is acknowledged as not good for vaginal health. Not only can douching cause irritation and infections, it can push bad bacteria deeper into the reproductive organs and increase the risk for PID.
When to See A Doctor about Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
If you are experiencing pain in the lower abdomen, a change in vaginal discharge, irregular periods or bleeding in between periods, call your doctor. Your doctor will talk to you about your history and perform a range of diagnostic tests to see if you have PID.
If you are diagnosed with PID, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. As with all antibiotics, make sure to take the full dosage even if your symptoms go away.
How Advanced Gynecology Can Help: Treatment Options for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
If you are suffering from symptoms related to PID, Advanced Gynecology is here for you.
Our board-certified team of women's health experts is ready to help you with diagnostic care and a range of treatment options.
We will counsel you about the best options for you and your health.