PID – Pelvic Inflammatory Disease – is an infection of the womb, female reproductive organs and/or the fallopian tubes. Therefore, PID in men is not possible. However, the most common PID causes being STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), mainly gonorrhea and chlamydia, men do have to get checked if their partner develops PID. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease can have very serious consequences, including infertility, chronic pain and ectopic pregnancies.
How Common Is PID?
In the United States, some 750,000 experience PID each year. Between 10 and 15% of these women become infertile. Also, many ectopic pregnancies are a direct consequence of PID. Women with more sexual partners have an increased risk of PID. Women with a single partner who has had multiple partners are also at increased risk. This is why a full STD test should always be completed on both partners before unprotected sex occurs.
PID in Women – How Do they Get it?
PID is a bacterial infection. The bacteria travel from the vagina into her reproductive organs. There are various bacteria that can cause PID, but chlamydia and gonorrhea are the two most common ones. Also, if a woman has already had PID, they are at increased risk of it occurring again. The greatest risk is in women of childbearing age, as well as those under the age of 25. This is as a result of an immature cervix and a greater susceptibility to STDs. Women who use vaginal douches are also of increased risk. This is because the pH levels of the vagina change as a result of douching, as well as forcing bacteria into the reproductive organs. Women with IUDs (intrauterine devices) are also of a slightly increased risk.
PID Symptoms and Signs
The symptoms of PID can be mild or sever. Mild symptoms are most common when it is caused by chlamydia, although the consequences can be just as severe. PID, unfortunately, is often unrecognized, because the PID signs can be so mild. Usually, women have some pain in their lower abdomen. They may also have an unusual discharge, a fever, pain during intercourse, foul vaginal odor, irregular menstruation and painful urination.
If PID is treated quickly, complications can be fully avoided. However, because it often goes undetected, the bacteria can permanently damage the fallopian tubes by causing scar tissue, stopping the movement of eggs. Infertility is quite common. The more often a woman has PID, the more likely it is she will become infertile. It is also possible for fertilized eggs to remain in the fallopian tubes, thereby leading to an ectopic pregnancy, which is a potentially lethal condition. Chronic pelvic pain is also common and can significantly reduce quality of life.
It is very difficult to diagnose PID. This is mainly due to the mild and subtle symptoms. There are no quick and simple PID tests, forcing medical professionals to rely on clinical findings instead. A vaginal examination is generally needed, as well as a test for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Another helpful test is the ultrasound, which can show damage to fallopian tubes or abscesses. Alternatively, a laparoscopy can allow a surgeon to view the woman’s reproductive system and determine any problems, as well as taking biopsies for laboratory testing.
PID requires treatment with antibiotics. Health care providers are best able to determine which one is needed. However, if any damage has already been done, the antibiotics will not reverse this. This is why it is imperative that a woman seeks medical help as soon as she experiences symptoms. Damage is permanent and can have severe consequences in terms of fertility. There are five cases in which hospitalization may be needed:
1. Severe illness as a result of PID
3. Oral medication is ineffective or cannot be taken, requiring intravenous antibiotics
4. An abscess on the ovary or fallopian tube
5. When further monitoring is required as further surgery may be needed
Preventing PID is done to maintaining good sexual health. Contraception should always be used and if a couple feels secure enough to move away from condoms, they should both be tested for STDs. Women aged 25 and younger should have a yearly chlamydia test as well. If a woman or her partner experiences any symptoms that could point to an STD, they should both be tested straight away. Neither should engage in sexual activity until it is determined that no STDs are pregnant, or until the STD has been treated.