The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that more than 750,000 women suffer from pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID affects reproductive organs, including the fallopian tubes and uterus as a result of bacterial infection. The disease can be associated with another sexually transmitted disease or infection like gonorrhea or chlamydia, but infection can also develop independently.
Causes of PID
PID is caused by a bacterial infection. The bacteria are first present in the vagina or cervical area. When the bacteria move to the uterus and/or other reproductive organs and cause infection it can lead to PID. Most PID cases are associated with sexually transmitted infections or diseases, but other bacteria can also cause infection. Women can develop PID after childbirth, IUD insertion, abortion, endometrial biopsy, and miscarriage.
What are the symptoms of PID?
The most common symptom of PID is pain. Other symptoms of PID may include:
- Vaginal discharge – foul-smelling
- Pain during intercourse
- Irregular bleeding
- Pain during urination
Not all women experience recognizable symptoms and even if symptoms persist women and/or physicians may not associate the symptoms with PID.
Diagnosing PID is a difficult process for physicians. The first symptoms are often mild and mimic symptoms of menstruation or other non-reproductive health issues. It is important for patients to describe all symptoms in detail. If PID is suspected, physicians can order STD testing, perform a vaginal exam and order an ultrasound of the reproductive organs to find any inflammation or abscess.
How is PID treated?
If left untreated PID can cause infertility, severe pain and damage to reproductive organs. Antibiotics can cure the infection, but determining the specific bacteria causing the infection can be difficult so multiple antibiotics are often prescribed simultaneously. Treating PID early is imperative to preserve reproductive function and fertility. Antibiotics can cure the infection, but any physical damage to reproductive organs caused by the infection will remain.
PID and fertility
If diagnosed and treated promptly, PID is not likely to affect fertility. Severe and repeated infections increase the likelihood of fertility problems associated with the disease. If permanent damage to the fallopian tubes or uterus occurs as a result of PID, fertility problems may arise. Women suffering repeated bouts of PID may be at increased risk of ectopic pregnancy.
Being pregnant with PID
PID can occur during pregnancy, but it is extremely rare. Treatment protocol for pregnant patients is the same as non-pregnant patients. One or more antibiotics will be prescribed to cure the infection.