Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the reproductive organs in women. The pelvis is in the lower abdomen and includes the fallopian tubes, the ovaries, the cervix, and the uterus. PID typically starts with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) – bacteria first enter the vagina and cause an infection; with time, the infection can move into the pelvic organs. Several different types of bacteria can cause PID, including bacteria that cause the STIs gonorrhea and chlamydia.
PID can become extremely dangerous, even life-threatening, if left untreated. If you suspect that you may have an infection, see your doctor as soon as possible.
It is possible to have PID and not know it. Some cases of PID may have no symptoms at all. However, when PID becomes worse, common symptoms include:
- unusually long or painful periods, and unusual vaginal discharge
- spotting and pain between menstrual periods or during urination
- pain in the lower abdomen and back
- fever, chills
- nausea, vomiting
- pain during vaginal intercourse
Left untreated, PID can lead to serious problems like infertility, ectopic pregnancy and chronic pain. If you notice these symptoms, it is important to stop having intercourse and visit your doctor immediately, as prompt treatment is vital for PID.
A health care provider can diagnose PID during a pelvic exam. They may also obtain a sample your vaginal discharge, and perform cervical cultures and urine tests.
Your doctor may also recommend one or more tests to confirm PID and determine the extent of infection.
- Blood tests, to analyse the infection
- Pelvic ultrasound – to view your reproductive organs
- Endometrial biopsy
- Laparoscopy – where a thin lighted tube with a camera is inserted through a small cut in your abdomen to examine your pelvic organs
The symptoms of PID can be confused with other infections. Be open with your health care provider about your sexual history to help make it easier to diagnose PID in its earliest, most treatable stages.
If diagnosed at an early stage, and in mild cases of PID, the doctor will start you on oral antibiotic medications. For more severe cases, you may be treated on a combination of oral and intravenous medications, or hospitalized for more aggressive management. In cases where a PID infection leads to abscesses in uterus or ovaries, a surgery is performed. It is important that your partner also get treated even if he does not have any symptoms, in order to prevent future recurrence of the infection.