Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a general term that refers to the infection of the uterus (womb), fallopian tubes (tubes that carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus), and other reproductive organs.
It is a common and serious complication of some sexually transmitted infections (STIs), especially chlamydia and gonorrhea.
PID can damage the fallopian tubes and tissues in and near the uterus and ovaries. Untreated PID can lead to serious consequences including infertility, ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy in the fallopian tube or elsewhere outside of the womb), abscess formation, and chronic pelvic pain.
How Does It Spread?
PID occurs when bacteria move upward from a woman's vagina or cervix (opening to the uterus) into her reproductive organs. Many different organisms can cause PID, but many cases are associated with gonorrhea and chlamydia, two very common bacterial STIs.
A prior episode of PID increases the risk of another episode because the reproductive organs may be damaged during the initial bout of infection.
Sexually active women in their childbearing years are most at risk, and those under age 25 are more likely to develop PID than those older than 25.
This is because the cervix of teenage girls and young women is not fully matured, increasing their susceptibility to the STIs that are linked to PID.
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- Dull pain or tenderness in the lower abdomen
- Abnormal periods
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Fever and chills.
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STIs, mainly untreated chlamydia or gonorrhea, is the main preventable cause of PID. Women can protect themselves from PID by taking action to prevent STIs or by getting early treatment if they do get an STI.
The surest way to avoid transmission of STIs is to abstain from sexual intercourse or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.
Latex male condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of transmission of chlamydia and gonorrhea.
PAMF recommends yearly chlamydia testing of all sexually active women age 25 or younger.
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PID can be cured with several types of antibiotics. A health care provider will determine and prescribe the best therapy. However, antibiotic treatment does not reverse any damage that has already occurred to the reproductive organs.
If a woman has pelvic pain and other symptoms of PID, it is critical that she seek care immediately. Prompt antibiotic treatment can prevent severe damage to reproductive organs.
The longer a woman delays treatment for PID, the more likely she is to become infertile or to have a future ectopic pregnancy because of damage to the fallopian tubes.
Even if symptoms go away, the woman should finish taking all of the prescribed medicine. This will help prevent the infection from returning.
Women being treated for PID should be re-evaluated by their health care provider two to three days after starting treatment to be sure the antibiotics are working to cure the infection.
In addition, a woman's sex partner(s) should be treated to decrease the risk of re-infection, even if the partner(s) has no symptoms.
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Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
PID, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Center for Infectious Diseases.
STD Wizard: It takes 5 minutes to find out if you need to be tested for an STI such as hepatitis, HIV, or Chlamydia.