Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

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What is pelvic inflammatory disease or PID?

It is an infection that affects the female reproductive organs and a common illness in women. Successful treatment often depends upon early diagnosis and when not treated promptly, this infection may cause permanent, long-term health issues to women. The infection is often caused by sexually transmitted diseases (STD). Women are advised to take necessary precautions from STD to reduce the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease.

Causes of PID

PID occurs when bacteria gets past vagina and cervix to infect reproductive organs. The uterus, ovaries or fallopian tubes can get affected and lead to an abscess in a fallopian tube or ovary. Gonorrhoea and chlamydia, both sexually transmitted diseases, are two well-known causes with no or vague symptoms. It may take from a few days to a few weeks before PID develops in women. PID can also be caused by non-STD related infections such as bacterial vaginosis.

Risk factors

PID can occur in any woman who is sexually active. It is more common in younger women less than 25 years of age. Other risk factors are multiple sex partners, sex partner who in turn has multiple partners and previous history of PID.

Symptoms of PID

PID sometimes leaves vague or no symptoms and the list below are the most common symptoms:

  • Pain in the lower or upper right abdomen
  • Abnormal menstrual bleeding or vaginal discharge
  • Painful intercourse
  • Painful urination
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting

The symptoms when present may indicate PID or presence of other medical problems and immediate consultation with a medical professional is recommended. Long term, PID can lead to ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the uterus), chronic pelvic pain and infertility.

Diagnosis of PID

Diagnosis of PID will require a detailed medical history and a pelvic examination of you reproductive organs. Fluid and blood samples will be used to rule out STD. Other tests such as the ultrasonography and endometrial biopsy may be required. In some cases diagnostic laparoscopy may be required.

How is pelvic pain treated?

PID is treated medically with antibiotics and other medicines. If the pain results from a problem with one of the pelvic organs, the treatment might involve surgery or other procedures. Pelvic pain is a pain that lasts over a short period of time ranging from just a few minutes to a few days. It is usually a warning sign that something is wrong and should be evaluated promptly. Early treatment of PID often succeeds the most and it is not uncommon that treatment is offered to women with suspected PID since untreated infection carries greater risk of long term issues such infertility.

In some instances, hospitalisation may be required for women who are pregnant and severely ill with certain medical conditions. It is also necessary to treat partners of women with STD at the same time to avoid re-infections. 

Prevention

The following actions will help towards prevention of PID:

  • Use of condoms irrespective of use of other birth control methods
  • Partners whose STD status is known
  • Have sex only with a partner who is exclusive to you and vice
  • Limit your number of sex partners. More partners increase the risk of STD.
  • Immediate consult with a health provider when any of the signs or symptoms such as an unusual sore, discharge with odour, burning sensation while urination or bleeding between periods occur.