Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive system. The infection can develop when certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like Gonorrhea and Chlamydia go untreated. It can also be caused by non STD-related issues such as lymphatic, hematogenous, post-abortal, intrauterine device (IUD), or postpartum.
PID occurs when the infection spreads up from the cervix to the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. The infection can temporarily and permanently damage the fallopian tubes and other structures near the ovaries and uterus.
Women who are of reproductive age and sexually active are at the greatest risk for getting Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. In addition, it has been shown that women under the age of 25 are more likely to acquire PID than women who are over the age of 25. The reason for this is the stage of growth at which younger women’s reproductive organs have developed. Because the reproductive system is still not mature and still developing, they are more susceptible to the STDs that are linked to PID.
Symptoms of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
A woman can have PID without even knowing it. Being asymptomatic is not uncommon.
However, if symptoms do arise, they can be experienced as the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Tenderness of the cervix
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Foul vaginal odor
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Pain during urination
- Irregular menstrual bleeding
Diagnosing Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Diagnosis is very difficult for PID because of the lack of symptoms that women suffer. Abdominal pain or persistent fever sometimes triggers infected women to seek medical attention. If the pain and fever suggest the presence of PID, tests can be conducted to confirm this.
A pelvic ultrasound is often used to diagnose PID. The ultrasound can determine if the fallopian tubes have become enlarged, or if anything looks unusual. In addition, a laparoscopy can be performed to confirm the existence of PID. This procedure uses a thin, flexible tube, affixed with a small light at one end. The tube is inserted into an incision in the lower abdomen and the doctor is then able to view the internal organs or take specimens as necessary.
Treatment for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease can be treated with several different types of antibiotics. Unfortunately, while antibiotics can rid the system of the disease it cannot reverse any damage that has already been caused internally to any of the reproductive organs.
When experiencing any type of symptoms that could potentially be PID, it is crucial to see a doctor right away. If caught in time, the antibiotics can prevent any future damage that PID could cause. If treatment is prolonged, many major complications could arise that cannot be reversed.
It is common for two types of antibiotics to be prescribed as a course of treatment. As many different organisms could potentially be responsible for the PID, it is safe to have all bases covered with the medication. The antibiotics are either administered by injection or taken orally. Although many women feel better before the treatment course is completed, it is very important to finish all the medication. Not doing so will result in possible return of the disease.
What Happens if Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Goes Untreated?
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is very dangerous if not treated. In addition to causing infertility to over 100,000 women a year, 150 women die from the infection annually.
PID and its bacteria can get inside the fallopian tubes and slowly destroy them by beginning to turn normal tissue into scar tissue. This scar tissue then develops and obstructs any eggs from reaching the uterus. In some cases, the scar tissue is so damaged that sperm may be unable to fertilize an egg, and as a consequence a woman cannot become pregnant.
In a more hazardous situation, if the sperm is able to fertilize an egg, the egg can get stuck inside the fallopian tube because of the scar tissue blockage. When this happens, the egg begins to grow inside the tube as if it were inside the uterus. The result is an ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancies can cause a rupture of the fallopian tubes leading to severe pain, internal bleeding and even death.
In some cases chronic pelvic pain that can last for months or even years is a direct result of fallopian tube scarring.
Preventing Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Abstaining from sexual intercourse is the best way to prevent getting PID. Of course, if sexual intercourse cannot be avoided, limiting the number of partners to just one and/or using a clean latex condom during every sexual contact are good prevention methods.
Because untreated STDs are one of the main causes leading to PID it is imperative to get tested regularly. Getting tested and treated early for any STDs is best for preventing Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.
Who Is at Risk for Contracting Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?
The following list includes those people that are at a higher risk of contracting Pelvic Inflammatory Disease:
- People with new sexual partners
- People with more than 2 partners
- People not using any method of protection
- Individuals abusing drugs or alcohol before engaging in sexual intercourse
- Women who use IUDs
- Women who do not get regularly tested for STDs
- Women who do not have annual check-ups / pap smears
- Women under the age of 25
- Women who douche regularly
- Women within 12 months of post partum care
Statistics about Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
The following are some important statistics about Pelvic Inflammatory Disease:
- Over 1 million new cases of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease occur every month
- 100,000 women become infertile each year because of PID
- Of the women with PID, about 60 percent had Trichomoniasis
- Of the women with PID, about 40 to 60 percent had Gonorrhea
- Approximately 10 to 40% of women who have untreated Gonorrhea develop PID
- 150 women die each year from PID
- Approximately 1 in 8 women with PID become infertile
- Up to 25 percent of PID infections recur
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