PID - Cherokee Women's Health


What is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)?

Pelvic inflammatory disease is a common infection within the female reproductive organs (more than 1 million cases per year in the United States).

PID is caused when bacteria moves from the vagina and cervix upward into the uterus, ovaries, or fallopian tubes. This may lead to an abscess in a fallopian tube or ovary.

Long term problems can occur with PID if not treated promptly.

What causes PID?

The main causes of PID are gonorrhea and chlamydia. PID can be caused by infections that are not sexually transmitted, such as bacterial vaginosis.

It takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks before PID develops and symptoms can be vague or none at all.

What are the long-term effects of PID?

PID can lead to serious, long-term problems such as:

  • Infertility — 1 in 4 women become infertile
  • Scarring of the fallopian tubes — Scarring can cause the tubes to be blocked, preventing the egg from being fertilized. Scarring can also cause ectopic pregnancy, which is when is when a fertilized egg begins to grow in the fallopian tube, and has the possibility to rupture.
  • Long-lasting pelvic pain.

Who is at risk of PID?

Pelvic inflammatory disease can occur in any woman who is sexually active, but it is more common in women younger than 25.

It is also more common for women with the following risk factors to develop PID:

  • Infection with an STD, most often gonorrhea or chlamydia
  • Past PID
  • Multiple sex partners or a partner who has sex with others.

What are the symptoms of PID?

Many women with PID have only mild symptoms or none at all. Many symptoms can be vague, causing PID to be missed by women or their health care physicians.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Pain in the lower abdomen (usually a mild ache)
  • Pain in the upper right abdomen
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Abnormal menstrual bleeding
  • Painful urination
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Painful sexual intercourse.

Having one of these symptoms does not mean you have PID. It could be a sign or another problem, such as appendicitis or ectopic pregnancy. Contact your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

How is PID diagnosed?

  • A pelvic exam will be done. This can show if your organs are tender, and cervical fluids will be taken and tested for infection.
  • Your physicians and advanced practice providers will ask certain questions about your medical history, sexual habits, birth control method, and your symptoms.
  • Other tests can be done, such as:
    • Blood test
    • Ultrasonography
    • Endometrial biopsy
    • Laparoscopy.

How is PID treated?

PID can be treated, but any scarring that might have occurred cannot be reversed. The longer PID goes untreated, the greater the risk for long-term problems.

Infection is usually treated by antibiotics (possibly two or more different ones). Your physician will most likely schedule a follow-up visit 2-3 days after treatment to check on your progress. Make sure to take the antibiotics for as long as they are prescribed, even if the symptoms go away.

You may be hospitalized if you:

  • Do not have a clear diagnosis
  • Are pregnant
  • Are severely ill
  • Must take antibiotics intravenously
  • Have an abscess in a fallopian tube or ovary
  • Have nausea and vomiting
  • Have a high fever
  • Surgery may be needed if an abscess is found.

The sex partners of an infected woman need to be treated, as they may have gonorrhea or chlamydia.

How can PID be prevented?

Take these steps to avoid STD infection to help prevent PID:

  • Limit your number of sex partners
  • Have sex only with a partner who does not have an STD and who only has sex with you.
  • Use condoms every time you have sex, even if you are using other methods of birth control.
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