Pelvic inflammatory disease (abbreviated to PID) is a chronic infection that affects women all of the time in the United States. PID affects the uterus (womb), the ovaries and the fallopian tubes. Most of the time, pelvic inflammatory disease can be traced back to a sexually transmitted disease, in particular chlamydia and gonorrhea. If left undiagnosed and untreated, pelvic inflammatory disease can be life threatening.
Who is at the Greatest Risk of Contracting PID?
There are specific factors that increase the chance that a woman will contract pelvic inflammatory disease. PID is most widespread in women who are sexually active as well as women who are of childbearing age, especially females who range in age from 15 to 25 years. It is less likely that women over the age of 25 or 30 will develop pelvic inflammatory disease, but still it does sometimes happen. The reason that younger women are more likely to develop PID is that the cervix of young women is not yet fully matured as it is in an older woman, therefore their susceptibility to catching a sexually transmitted disease is higher. Having multiple sexual partners is another risk factor for developing PID. The more partners the other individual has at present or had in the past serves to increase the risks even more due to a higher amount of exposure to disease. Generally younger women have more sexual partners than do more mature and middle-aged women.
Having vaginal infections in the past such as repeated yeast infections is also likely to make pelvic inflammatory disease more likely. Another thing that serves as a risk factor is douching on a regular basis. Research into douching has shown that it is not a healthy practice as it alters the vaginal flora (which are organisms that naturally live in the vagina) in detrimental ways and can actually push harmful bacteria in the vagina into the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. As a result of this, women who douche on a consistent basis or even if they do it occasionally, have a greater risk of developing PID. Another reason douching is not wise is that it often masks signs of an infection and therefore the woman does not seek treatment for a problem she is not aware that she has in the first place.
Using an Intrauterine Device (IUD) has also been shown to put a woman at higher risk of contracting pelvic inflammatory disease. But the risks for women using this particular form of contraception is decreased when a woman is tested and if it is necessary, is treated for the sexually transmitted disease before the doctor inserts the IUD.
Symptoms of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Pelvic inflammatory disease does not always show symptoms and when it does show symptoms, they can range from mild to moderate to severe. If chlamydia is the cause of pelvic inflammatory disease, very often there are no symptoms at all. With that in mind, PID can still be extremely problematic to the health of any woman. Serious damage can take place in the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus if the diseases is not detected and treated at an early stage. If pain is present it usually occurs in the lower portion of the abdomen and will most likely affect both sides of the body. Some women but not all, experience pain in their upper abdomen and some have lower back pain. Still others experience both types of pain.
Other symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease include pain during intercourse, irregular menstrual bleeding, a high fever, pain or discomfort during urination, an unusual vaginal discharge that might have a foul smelling odor and pain or discomfort that is felt while a pelvic exam is being conducted. A very small percentage of women who are affected by pelvic inflammatory disease will develop scarring on one or both of their fallopian tubes. This kind of scarring could lead to future problems when it comes to conceiving a baby however conception problems are the exception as opposed to the rule.
Medical Attention is a Must for PID
Pelvic inflammatory disease is not an easy disease to diagnose due to the fact that the symptoms or signs are often mild or even sometimes non-existent. Sometimes the infected woman as well as her physician will attribute the symptoms to another type of cause and not to PID. In order to properly diagnose pelvic inflammatory disease, a pelvic exam must be undertaken and a swab of the cervix needs to be collected. A physician will also test for chlamydia and gonorrhea and there is a need for a check for abnormal cervical or vaginal discharge. The physician may order a pelvic ultrasound if he or she deems it imperative to do so. The pelvic ultrasound will show whether or not an infection is present or if the fallopian tubes (or one or the other) are enlarged.
A minor surgical procedure known as a laparoscopy is sometimes undertaken when pelvic inflammatory disease is suspected. This medical procedure involves the insertion of a thin tube with a light at the end of it (that is the laparoscope) into the lower abdomen. This gives the surgeon the ability to view at close range the internal pelvic organs as well as take tissue samples to send off to the laboratory.
Treatment for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Antibiotics are used to treat pelvic inflammatory disease. Most of the time, oral antibiotics are given to a patient for a span of 10 to 14 days. In some cases two different kinds of antibiotics are given at the same time, as this type of infection is very tough to get rid of. Some physicians give their patients an injection of antibiotics before then putting them on a treatment of oral antibiotics. In cases of severe infections, patients must be hospitalized and treated by way of intravenous. Follow up visits must then take place after the individual has been released from the hospital.
It is an unfortunate reality of pelvic inflammatory disease that any damage that is done to any of the reproductive organs that took place before treatment was started, cannot be reversed, no matter what. That is precisely why it is so important for pelvic inflammatory disease to be detected as early as possible. Infertility can be a reality where pelvic inflammatory disease is concerned and so can a high risk of having an ectopic pregnancy (when an egg implants itself in the fallopian tubes instead of in the uterus). Ectopic pregnancies can be life threatening to the mother.
While a woman is taking antibiotics to treat pelvic inflammatory disease she must not engage in sexual intercourse and she must also have her partner checked for sexually transmitted diseases and she must be treated for these as well if it is necessary. She may need to take not just antibiotics but painkillers as well and bed rest is a necessary element of getting better. A woman suffering from pelvic inflammatory disease needs to give her body the time it requires to heal itself as well as to build back up to its normal condition.
How to Prevent Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
The very best way to prevent pelvic inflammatory disease is to limit how many sexual partners you have due to the fact that sexually transmitted diseases are the number one cause of developing PID. A long term committed relationship that is completely monogamous with a loving partner who has been tested for sexually transmitted diseases and is free of them is essential for optimum health. Using condoms and practicing safe sex in every way possible also makes a tremendous difference. It is strongly recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that all women who are 25 years and under who are sexually active should be screened on a yearly basis for sexually transmitted diseases. Also any woman, no matter what her age but particularly those 25 and younger who sleeps with multiple partners or who has recently become intimate with a new partner should get herself tested on a consistent basis to help prevent the contracting of PID and all other diseases.