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Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
What is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)?
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a serious infection of the female reproductive system that can develop when certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) go untreated. In most cases, it occurs when bacteria from the STD in the vagina or cervix move into the uterus and upper genital tract. The most common organisms that lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease are gonorrhea and chlamydia, highly contagious STDs.
Untreated Pelvic Inflammatory Disease can damage the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and uterus, leading to chronic pelvic pain and serious damage to the reproductive system. PID is the most common, preventable cause of infertility, and can also lead to ectopic pregnancies.
The good news is that when Pelvic Inflammatory Disease causes symptoms, it is easy to diagnose and can be treated with antibiotics. The essential part is to detect it before it leads to serious health problems. About 2 out of 3 cases of PID are unrecognized and, therefore, may be untreated if people aren't screened for STDs. So teenage girls who are sexually active should take precautions to keep from contracting STDs, and eventually PID, and be screened for STDs regularly.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Symptoms
- If you have Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, you may have any of these symptoms:
- Symptoms not related to the female reproductive organs include fever, nausea, and vomiting.
- Your symptoms may be worse at the end of your menstrual period and during the first several days following a period.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Causes
Unsafe sexual practices that increase your likelihood of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease (STD) — such as unprotected sex with more than one partner — increase your risk of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. The most common bacteria that cause PID also cause gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Some forms of contraception may affect your risk of developing pelvic inflammatory disease. Contraceptive IUDs may increase your risk of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, but barrier methods, such as condoms or diaphragms, reduce your risk. Use of the birth control pill alone offers no protection against acquiring STDs. But the pill may offer some protection against the development of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease by causing your body to create thicker cervical mucus, making it more difficult for bacteria to reach your upper genital tract.
Bacteria may also enter your reproductive tract as a result of an IUD insertion, childbirth, miscarriage, abortion or removing a small piece of tissue from your uterine lining for laboratory analysis (endometrial biopsy).
Are there any tests for PID?
It can be hard for your doctor to figure out if you have Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. Symptoms can be mild and are like symptoms of some other diseases. If you think that you may have Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, see a doctor right away. If you are treated right away, you'll be less likely to have long-term problems, such as infertility.
If you have pain in your lower abdomen (stomach area), your doctor will perform a physical exam. This will include a pelvic (internal) exam, which will help your doctor learn more about your pain. Your doctor will check for:
- abnormal vaginal or cervical discharge
- lumps near your ovaries and tubes
- tenderness or pain of your pelvic organs
Your doctor will also give you tests for STDs, urinary tract infection, and if needed, pregnancy. Your doctor also might test you for HIV and syphilis.
If needed, your doctor may do other tests.
- Ultrasound (sonogram) – a test that uses sound waves to take pictures of the pelvic area
- Endometrial (uterine) biopsy – a small piece of the endometrium (the inside lining of the womb) is removed and tested
- Laparoscopy – a small tube with a light inside is inserted through your abdomen (stomach area) to look at your pelvic organs
These tests will help your doctor find out if you have Pelvic Inflammatory Disease or if you have a different problem that looks like PID.
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