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a-z health information

a-z health information - Disease

 

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

Definition

Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection of a woman's womb (uterus), ovaries, or fallopian tubes.

Alternative Names

PID; Oophoritis; Salpingitis; Salpingo-oophoritis; Salpingo-peritonitis

Causes

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection caused by bacteria. When bacteria from the vagina or cervix travel to your womb, tubes, or ovaries it 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.

Bacteria can also enter your body during a medical procedure such as:

In the U.S., nearly 1 million women have PID each year. About 1 in 8 sexually active girls will have PID before age 20.

You are more likely to get PID if:

  • You have a male sex partner with gonorrhea or chlamydia
  • You have sex with many different people
  • You have had an STI in the past
  • You have recently had PID
  • You have recently gotten an IUD
  • You have had sex before age 20

Symptoms

Common symptoms of PID include:

  • Fever
  • Pain or tenderness in the pelvis, lower belly, or lower back
  • Fluid from your vagina that has an unusual color, texture, or smell

Other symptoms that may occur with PID:

  • Bleeding after intercourse
  • Chills
  • Being very tired
  • Pain when you urinate
  • Having to urinate often
  • Period cramps that hurt more than usual or last longer than usual
  • Unusual bleeding or spotting during your period
  • Not feeling hungry
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Skipping your period
  • Pain when you have intercourse

You can have PID and not have any symptoms. For example, chlamydia can cause PID with no symptoms. Women who have an ectopic pregnancy or who are infertile often have PID caused by chlamydia. An ectopic pregnancy is when an egg grows outside of the uterus. It puts the mother's life in danger.

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider may do a pelvic exam to look for:

  • Bleeding from your cervix. The cervix is the opening to your uterus.
  • Fluid coming out of your cervix
  • Pain when your cervix is touched
  • Tenderness in your uterus, tubes, or ovaries

You may have lab tests to check for signs of infection:

Other tests include:

  • A swab taken of your vagina or cervix. This sample will be checked for gonorrhea, chlamydia, or other causes of PID.
  • Pelvic ultrasound or CT scan to see what else may be causing your symptoms. Appendicitis or pockets of infection around your tubes and ovaries may cause similar symptoms.
  • Pregnancy test

Treatment

Your doctor will often have you start taking antibiotics while waiting for your test results.

If you have a mild PID:

  • Your health care provider will give you a shot containing an antibiotic.
  • You will be sent home with antibiotic pills to take for up to 2 weeks.
  • You will need to follow-up closely with your health care provider.

If you have a more severe PID:

  • You may need to stay in the hospital.
  • You may be given antibiotics through a vein (IV).
  • Later, you may be given antibiotic pills to take by mouth.

There are many different antibiotics that can treat PID. Some are safe for pregnant women. What type you take depends on the cause of the infection. You may receive a different treatment depending on if you have gonorrhea or chlamydia.

Your sexual partner must be treated as well.

  • If you have more than one sexual partner, they must all be treated.
  • If your partner is not treated, your partner can infect you again.
  • Both you and your partner must finish taking all of your antibiotics.
  • Use condoms until you both have finished taking antibiotics.

Possible Complications

PID infections can cause scarring of the pelvic organs. This can cause:

If you have a serious infection that doesn't improve with antibiotics, you may need surgery.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

  • You have symptoms of PID
  • You think you have been exposed to an STI
  • Treatment for a current STI does not seem to be working

Prevention

Get prompt treatment for STIs.

You can prevent PID by practicing safe sex.

  • The only absolute way to prevent an STI is to not have sex (abstinence).
  • You can reduce your risk by having a sexual relationship with only one person. This is called being monogamous.
  • Using a condom every time you have sex also reduces your risk.

Here's how you can reduce your risk of PID:

  • Get regular STI screening exams.
  • If you are a new couple, get tested before starting to have sex. Testing can detect infections that aren't causing symptoms.
  • If you are a sexually active woman age 25 or younger, get screened each year for chlamydia and gonorrhea.
  • All women with new sexual partners or multiple partners should also be screened.

References

Birnbaumer DM. Sexually transmitted diseases. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 98.

Meyers D, Wolff T, Gregory K, et al. USPSTF recommendations for STI screening. Am Fam Physician. 2008;77:819-824.

Workowski KA, Berman S; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2010. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2010;59(RR-12):1-110.


Review Date: 8/5/2013
Reviewed By: Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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