A healthy vagina produces fluid that keeps the vagina clean. In certain circumstances, the vaginal…
Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is the result of an infection of a woman's reproductive organs.
- PID occurs most commonly when bacteria from a sexually-transmitted infection (STI) spread from the cervix to the uterus, fallopian tubes and possibly the ovaries and surrounding pelvis tissue. It can also occur after childbirth, miscarriage, an abortion or insertion of an intrauterine device (IUD).
- Symptoms can appear suddenly and be severe (acute), or appear gradually and be milder (chronic).
- If left untreated, this condition can lead to permanent damage to a woman's reproductive system.
What is pelvic inflammatory disease?
Pelvic inflammatory disease is the result of an infection of a woman's reproductive organs.
Signs and symptoms
Some women with PID may not experience any signs or symptoms, while others can experience mild or severe symptoms. These symptoms commonly include:
- Pain during sexual intercourse;
- Smelly discharge from the vagina;
- Pain or a burning sensation while urinating, and;
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding occurring between periods, or after sexual intercourse.
If the infection spreads quickly, you are more likely to experience:
- Chills, fever, nausea or vomiting, and;
- Severe abdominal pain.
A slowly-progressing infection is more likely to cause:
- Back pain, and;
- Mild lower abdominal pain.
Other circumstance in which an infection can spread to these organs can include:
Risk factors associated with PID include:
PID can appear in two forms - acute or chronic. In the acute form, symptoms can appear suddenly and be severe; in the chronic form, symptoms can appear more gradually and be milder.
Methods for diagnosis
To diagnose PID, your doctor may ask you about your symptoms and conduct a pelvic examination. This examination may involve taking swab samples from your vagina and cervix to identify any infection. A urine test is also commonly used to identify the presence of STIs such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia.
Your doctor may also use a pelvic ultrasound scan help to identify how far an infection has spread.
If there is still doubt, or you are not responding to treatment. a procedure known as laparoscopy can be used to diagnose PID. A surgeon will view the reproductive organs by inserting a small camera through a small incision in your abdomen.
Types of treatment
It is important to begin treatment for PID as soon as possible to reduce the risk of organ scarring, which can lead to chronic PID and serious complications.
Treatment is usually straightforward: you will receive a course of oral antibiotics targeted against the specific organism that has caused the infection. In cases of severe infection, you may be admitted to hospital and given antibiotics intravenously.
It is also important for your sexual partner to be tested and treated if required. It is important not to have sex with your partner until you are both free of infection, as you may become reinfected.
Complications associated with pelvic inflammatory disease can occur if the condition is unnoticed or not treated. The risk of complications also increases if you have more than one episode of PID.
- Ongoing pain
- Scarring of the reproductive system;
- Infertility (rare), and;
- Ectopic pregnancies, which occur when a fertilised egg cannot travel down the fallopian tubes to the uterus. This can result in the embryo growing in the fallopian tubes, which can cause the tube to rupture, requiring emergency surgery.
Acute PID is generally a temporary and treatable condition.
PID most commonly occurs due to an STI spreading to the reproductive organs. It is important to recognise the symptoms of an STI, be tested and begin treatment as soon as possible to reduce the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease.
If you have had an STI, it is best for your sexual partner(s) to also be tested and treated. To help prevent STIs and pelvic inflammatory disease, it is important to have protected sex by using a condom.