Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, what to know
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, PID is a serious infection that harms a woman’s reproductive organs. It develops when an infection spreads up from the vagina and cervix into the Fallopian tubes, uterus, and ovaries.
According to Dr. Rose Gitonga, a gynecologist, PID is usually caused by untreated chlamydia or gonorrhea. But it may be caused by infections that are not sexually transmitted, such as bacterial vaginosis.
“Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection caused by bacteria. When bacteria from the vagina or cervix travel to your womb, fallopian tubes, or ovaries they can cause an infection.
“Most of the time, PID is caused by bacteria from chlamydia and gonorrhea. These are sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Having unprotected sex with someone who has an STI can cause PID.” Said Dr. Rose.
However, the two sexually transmitted infections (STIs), gonorrhea and Chlamydia are the main cause of PID. Gonorrhea and chlamydia may cause vague symptoms or even no symptoms in a woman. When a woman is infected with gonorrhea or chlamydia and does not receive treatment, it can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks before she develops PID.
“A health care provider can diagnose pelvic inflammatory disease during a pelvic exam. Tests will also be done for chlamydia, gonorrhea, or other infections, because they often cause PID.” She added.
Your health care provider may also do blood tests, tests of vaginal and cervical secretions, a laparoscopy — an instrument is inserted through a small cut in the navel in order to look at the reproductive organs.
Can pelvic inflammatory disease affect men?
According to Rose, Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) doesn’t affect men because it’s an infection of the fallopian tubes and uterus. It develops when bacteria move from the vagina up into the upper reproductive organs. Many times, these bacteria are sexually transmitted, and STDs like gonorrhea and chlamydia may lead to PID.
“Obviously, it’s possible for men to have those STDs, and they can spread the responsible bacteria to a woman. However, it’s not possible for those STDs to develop into PID in men like they can in women.” She said.
“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.” Advised Rose.
PID can lead to serious, long-term problems such as,
According to Dr. Rose, PID causes infertility in most women though without their consent.
“One in ten women with PID becomes infertile. PID can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes and this scarring can block the tubes and prevent an egg from being fertilized.” She said.
This may cause death if not treated in time.
“Scarring from PID also can prevent a fertilized egg from moving into the uterus. Instead, it can begin to grow in the fallopian tube. The tube may rupture (break) and cause life-threatening bleeding into the abdomen and pelvis. Emergency surgery may be needed if the ectopic pregnancy is not diagnosed early.” Said Rose.
PID can occur at any age in women who are sexually active. It is most common among young women. Those younger than age 25 years are more likely to develop PID. Women with infection with an STI, most often gonorrhea or Chlamydia, multiple sex partners (the more partners, the greater the risk), a sex partner who has sex with others or Past PID are more likely to have PID.
Some research suggests that women who douche frequently are at increased risk of PID.
“Douching may make it easier for the bacteria that cause PID to grow. It also may push the bacteria upward to the uterus and fallopian tubes from the vagina. For this and other reasons, douching is not recommended.” Added Dr. Rose.
What are the symptoms of PID?
Some women with PID have only mild symptoms or have no symptoms at all. Because the symptoms can be vague, many cases are not recognized by women or their gynecologists or other health care professionals.
The most common signs and symptoms of PID include Abnormal vaginal discharge, pain in the lower abdomen (often a mild ache), pain in the upper right abdomen, abnormal menstrual bleeding, fever and chills, painful urination, nausea and vomiting or painful sexual intercourse.
“Having one of these signs or symptoms does not mean that you have PID. It could be a sign of another serious problem, such as appendicitis or ectopic pregnancy. You should contact your gynecologist or other health care professional if you have any of these signs or symptoms.” She advised.
PID can be treated. However, treatment of PID cannot reverse the scarring caused by the infection. The longer the infection goes untreated, the greater the risk for long-term problems, such as infertility.
According to Dr. Rose Gitonga, within a few days of starting treatment, your symptoms may improve or go away. However, you should finish your medication, even if you are feeling better. Stopping your medication early may cause the infection to return.
“Antibiotics alone usually can get rid of the infection. Two or more antibiotics may be prescribed. They can be given as pills, through a tube inserted in a vein (intravenous line), or by injection.
A member of your health care team may schedule a follow-up visit 2–3 days after treatment to check your progress. Sometimes the symptoms go away before the infection is cured. If they do, you still should take all of the medicine for as long as it is prescribed.” She reiterated.
Some women may need to be treated in a hospital. Hospitalization may be recommended for women who do not have a clear diagnosis, are pregnant, must take antibiotics intravenously, are severely ill, have nausea and vomiting, have a high fever, have an abscess in a fallopian tube or ovary.
In certain situations, such as when an abscess is found, surgery may be needed.
“A woman’s sex partners must be treated too. Women with PID may have partners who have gonorrhea or chlamydia. A person can have these STIs even if there are no signs of illness.” She said.
How can PID be prevented?
According to Dr. Rose, to help prevent PID, one should be very careful when having sex.
“Use condoms every time you have sex to prevent STIs. Use condoms even if you use other methods of birth control.
Have sex only with a partner who does not have an STI and who only has sex with you. Limit your number of sex partners. If you or your partner has had previous partners, your risk of getting an STI is increased.” Advised Rose.
To learn if you have PID, your gynecologist or other health care professional will start by asking about your medical history, including your sexual habits, birth control method, and symptoms.
“If you have PID symptoms, you will need to have a pelvic exam. This exam can show if your reproductive organs are tender. A sample of fluid from your cervix will be taken and tested for gonorrhea and Chlamydia and blood tests may be done.
However, your gynecologist or other health care professional may order other tests or procedures. They can include ultrasonography, endometrial biopsy, and in some cases laparoscopy.” She said.