Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

What is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is also known as PID. This infection of a woman’s reproductive organs is considered one of the most serious complications that result from a sexually transmitted infection.

PID could lead to irreversible damage to a woman’s fallopian tubes, ovaries, or uterus, and it can also cause damage to other areas of the reproductive system. It can even result in infertility.

Many times, this disease is caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as chlamydia or gonorrhea. However, it can also be caused by bacteria that enter the body via a miscarriage, abortion, IUD, endometrial biopsy, or childbirth, as a few examples.

What are the Symptoms of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?

Some patients with PID will not exhibit any symptoms. But for women who do have symptoms, they might include pain within the lower abdomen or upper abdomen, pain during sex, pain during urination, fever, irregular bleeding, abnormally painful or long periods, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, and fatigue.

Severe symptoms include vomiting, a high fever over 101°F (38°C), fainting, and sharp pain within the abdomen.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) Causes

PID is caused by an infection of bacteria in the uterus, ovaries or fallopian tubes. This infection usually reaches the reproductive organs having traveled upwards from the vagina or cervix.

In most cases of PID, the bacteria involved is from a sexually transmitted infection, particularly chlamydia or gonorrhea. However, the infection can also be caused by other factors, such as medical procedures. Childbirth, miscarriage and abortion all increase the risk of PID. It’s also possible to contract an infection after having an endometrial biopsy or getting an intrauterine device (IUD, such as the Mirena coil) fitted.

Some cases of PID are caused by other infections of the vagina, such as bacterial vaginosis (BV). BV is often caused by cleaning inside of the vagina, for example using a douche, since this upsets the natural balance of good bacteria in the vagina and allows harmful bacteria to flourish.

How is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Treated?

Treatment for pelvic inflammatory disease commonly includes the use antibiotics, and your sexual partner should also be treated if an STI is to blame. Temporarily abstaining from sex will also be recommended until you are completely healed.

If there is an abscess that has ruptured or has the potential to rupture, surgery may be employed to remove it. Surgery might also be necessary for individuals who don’t respond to antibiotics.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) Prevention

Since PID is most often caused by sexually transmitted infections, it’s vital to practice safe sex and have regular sexual health screenings. Always use a condom with a new sexual partner until you have both been screened for STIs and tested negative. If tests do reveal that you have an STI, seek treatment immediately and always complete your course of treatment, as this will help to prevent the infection from developing into PID.

To prevent PID from other vaginal infections, avoid cleaning inside the vagina and particularly avoid douching. The vagina is self-cleaning and does not need to be cleansed with other products; doing so could cause irritation or introduce harmful bacteria.

Douching can cause bacteria to be pushed further up into the vagina, which can increase the risk of PID. If you notice unusual discharge or odors, don’t be tempted to clean or douche inside the vagina; instead, visit your doctor for treatment as this could be a sign of an infection like BV.

Last Reviewed:
October 08, 2016
Last Updated:
December 22, 2017
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