What you need to know about pelvic inflammatory disease

Pelvic Inflammatory disease, or PID, is an infection of the female pelvis: the cervix, fallopian tubes, uterus and ovaries. Normally, infections cannot reach these organs because the cervix stops any bacteria. However, if a sexually transmitted infections infects the cervix, the bacteria can also cause damage to other organs too. If it infects the fallopian tubes, it becomes more difficult for women to get pregnant. Pelvic inflammatory disease is more common in younger, more sexually active women.

Cause: Bacterial infection
The cause of pelvic inflammatory disease is a bacterial infection of the vagina. There are several type of bacteria that can infect the vagina, the most common being Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, both sexually transmitted diseases. Gonorrhea is caused by the Neisseria gonorrhea bacteria and chlamydia is caused by a variety of chlamydia bacterium.

Common signs and symptoms
Most women don’t know that they have PID because the disease doesn’t have any noticeable signs. For others, symptoms include:

  • Fever – Fever is a common symptom, with a temperature of 100.4 F or higher, sometimes accompanied by chills and nausea.
  • Vaginal discharge – pelvic inflammatory disease may also cause greenish or yellowish vaginal discharge, which is usually foul smelling.
  • Irregular menstruation – PID may irregular or longer menstrual cycles with frequently re-occurring cramps, which can last the whole month.
  • Painful sex – pelvic inflammatory disease can cause sex to be painful due to inflammation and infection of the vagina. If PID was caused by either gonorrhea or chlamydia, it can be passed to a partner.
  • Painful urination – since the pelvic area is inflamed, women may feel pain and discomfort whenever they urinate.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea – people with PID may also have diarrhea, and they may vomit frequently.

Transmission

  • Sex – The most common way to get PID is through unprotected sex with someone who has an STD. Women who are more sexually active, such as younger women are more likely to get PID.
  • Un-sanitized medical equipment –women can get pelvic inflammatory disease from un-sanitized medical equipment. They can get the infection when giving birth, having an abortion, miscarriage, pap smear test or when anything contaminated is inserted into their vagina. Because of high hygienic standards in hospitals, this mode of transmission is relatively rare.
  • Mysterious infections – there are some cases of pelvic inflammatory disease where the mode of transmission cannot be traced. These women didn’t have an STD or were not operated on using contaminated equipment. These cases are very rare.

Treatments

  • Antibiotics – taking antibiotics is the most common form of treatment for PID. The doctor may prescribe two antibiotics at once, depending on the infection and its severity, for either chlamydia and gonorrhea. Common prescriptions include cefotetan and doxycycline. Antibiotics are taken until the infection is healed or if the safe limit for their usage has been reached. A patient should faithfully follows their doctor’s instructions for the desired effect.
  • Surgery – sometimes antibiotics may not be enough. If the inflammation has already done severe damage, such as scarring to the pelvic organs, the only solution may be surgery. Surgery will also remove and drain abscesses in the fallopian tubes and the ovaries. There are three different surgery choices available for treating PID.
  • Laparoscopy – with laparoscopy, the surgeon will insert a lighted viewing instrument inside the body via the patient’s abdomen and make a small incision, just large enough to fit the scope. The surgeon will determine the severity of the problem and perform the appropriate surgery.
  • Laparotomy – with laparotomy, the surgeon will make an incision in the abdomen and inspect the pelvic organs for any signs of damage and infection and do the appropriate organ surgery.
  • Draining of abscesses – in this surgery, the surgeon inserts a needle and syringe inside the abdomen and sucks the infection out of the abscesses in the pelvic organs. The surgeon uses ultrasound to guide the needle inside the abdomen.

Prevention

  • Have safe sex– Ask your partner to use a condom, especially if you are having sex with different people. If you are on the pill, it’s still important to use condoms to protect against sexually transmitted infections.
  • Get tested – It’s worth knowing your own and your partner’s status before you have sex. Testing is relatively easy, just a simple appointment. If you have an STD, it’s important to tell your partner. And if you don’t, that knowledge will bring peace of mind.
  • Be responsible – Younger women are generally more sexually active than older and mature women. If you have more than one sexual partner, practice safe sex. Remember the more sexual partners you have, the higher your chances of contracting an STD.
  • Avoid douching – Douching can remove the beneficial bacteria from the vagina making the vagina more susceptible to infections and sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Educate – Learn to practice safer sex and how to spot the common signs of sexually transmitted infections and diseases. If you know what to look for, chances are you will catch any problems early and consult your doctor sooner.

Pelvic inflammatory diseases are more common than people think. Each year in the United States, it is estimated that more than 750,000 women experience an episode of acute PID. Highly treatable, if left untreated, it can cause infertility. Up to 10-15% of American women who have a PID become infertile as a result. The best way to avoid PID is by practicing safe sex and getting tested regularly.

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