Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is a general term that refers to infection of a woman’s reproductive system such as the uterus, fallopian tubes and other organs. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease occurs when bacteria moves upward from the vagina or cervix into the reproductive organs. It is a serious complication of some STDs, especially the bacteria Chlamydia and gonorrhea. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease damages the fallopian tubes and tissues in and near the uterus and ovaries.
Untreated Pelvic Inflammatory Disease may lead to serious consequences including infertility, ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy in the fallopian tube or elsewhere outside the womb), abscess formation and chronic pelvic pain.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Risk Factors
Women are more likely to develop Pelvic Inflammatory Disease if they:
- have had an STD, especially gonorrhea and Chlamydia
- are sexually active women under the age of 25
- have more than one sex partner. The more partners she has and if her partner has other partners the greater the risk of getting Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
- douche. Douching flushes bacteria into the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes, causing infection
- use an intrauterine device. They may be at higher risk of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease than women who use other types of birth control
- sexually active women and those under 25 are more likely to develop Pelvic Inflammatory Disease as the cervix of young women are not fully matured, increasing their susceptibility to the Pelvic Inflammatory Disease causing STDs
When Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is due to Chlamydial infection, women (and men) may experience mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.
Chlamydia is very destructive to the fallopian tubes. If untreated about 30% of women with Chlamydia will develop Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.
The common symptoms of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease are lower abdominal pain, fever, unusual vaginal discharge that may have a foul odor, painful sex, painful urination, irregular menstrual bleeding and pain in the right upper abdomen (rare).
STDs of untreated Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the main preventable causes of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. If a woman has pelvic pain or other symptoms of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, it is critical that she seek care promptly. The longer the delay, the more likely a woman may become infertile.
The best way to avoid an STD is to abstain from sexual activities or to be in a monogamous relationship with a partner who is known to you to be uninfected. The use of condoms can reduce the risk of Chlamydia and gonorrhea infection.
Yearly Chlamydia testing of sexually active women aged 25 or younger and older women with risk factors such as those who have a new partner or multiple partners are recommended.
There are noninvasive tests for Chlamydia using urine or vaginal material. The swabbing of the cervix for Chlamydia infection can be done at the same time as a Pap test.