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Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

What is pelvic inflammatory disease?

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection which occurs in a woman’s reproductive organs. PID can affect the uterus, fallopian tubes, and/or the ovaries. It can lead to pelvic adhesions and scar tissue that develops between internal organs, causing ongoing pelvic pain and the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy. Left untreated, infertility can develop. In fact, PID is currently the leading cause of female infertility. If left untreated, PID can also lead to chronic infection. In addition, if PID is not diagnosed early enough, peritonitis and inflammation of the walls of the abdominal and pelvic cavity may develop.

What causes pelvic inflammatory disease?

PID is caused by a type of bacteria, often the same type that is responsible for several sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. In some cases, PID develops from bacteria that has traveled through the vagina and the cervix by way of an intrauterine device (IUD).

Who is at risk for pelvic inflammatory disease?

Although women of any age can develop PID, sexually active women under age 25 and those of childbearing age are at the greatest risk of acquiring the disease through sexually transmitted bacteria. Women who use intrauterine devices (IUDs) are also at an increased risk.

What are the symptoms of PID?

The following are the most common symptoms of PID. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently.

  • Diffuse pain and tenderness in the lower abdomen
  • Pelvic pain
  • Increased foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Fever and chills
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Pain during sexual intercourse

Symptoms may be mild enough that the condition goes undiagnosed. The symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

How is PID diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical and pelvic examination, diagnostic procedures for PID may include the following:

  • Microscopic examination of samples from the vagina and cervix
  • Blood tests
  • Pap test: Test that involves microscopic examination of cells collected from the cervix, used to detect changes that may be cancer or may lead to cancer, and to show noncancerous conditions, such as infection or inflammation.
  • Ultrasound: A diagnostic imaging technique which uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the internal organs.
  • Laparoscopy: A minor surgical procedure in which a laparoscope, a thin tube with a lens and a light, is inserted into an incision in the abdominal wall. Using the laparoscope to see into the pelvic area, the physician can determine the locations, extent, and size of the endometrial growths.
  • Culdocentesis: A procedure in which a needle is inserted into the pelvic cavity through the vaginal wall to obtain a sample of pus.

How is PID treated?

Specific treatment will be determined by your physician based on your age, medical history, and preferences. Treatment for PID usually includes oral antibiotics, particularly if there is evidence of gonorrhea or chlamydia. In cases of severe infection, hospitalization may be required to administer intravenous antibiotics. Occasionally, surgery is necessary.