Island Sexual Health Society Be informed, not surprised!

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

2006 June 27

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a general term that refers to infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes and other “female reproductive organs”:/body/female/. It is a common and serious complication of some “sexually transmitted infections (STIs)”:/infections/, especially “chlamydia”:/infections/chlamydia/ and “gonorrhea”:/infections/gonorrhea/.

“Make an appointment”:/about/appointments/ at any of our clinics in Greater Victoria to get tested for pelvic inflammatory disease, or to find out more.

* “What causes pelvic inflammatory disease?”:#spread
* “Pelvic inflammatory disease prevention”:#prevent
* “Pelvic inflammatory disease symptoms”:#symptoms
* “Risks of untreated pelvic inflammatory disease”:#risks
* “PID tests and diagnosis”:#tests
* “PID treatment”:#treatment

For further reading, see our “links and other resources”:/resources/external/.

h3(#spread). What causes pelvic inflammatory disease?

Almost 100,000 Canadian women get PID each year, though the exact number is difficult to measure. And while all sexually active women are at risk, some are considered more likely to contract PID. These include women:

* with more than one sexual partner
* under 25 years of age
* who have previously had an episode of PID
* who have had a recent procedure in the upper genital tract (i.e. “abortion”:/pregnancy/abortion/, D&C, “IUD”:/birthcontrol/iud/ insertion)

h3(#prevent). Pelvic inflammatory disease prevention

To prevent pelvic inflammatory disease, use good “sex safety”:/sex-safety/ skills including regular “infection screening”:/infections/. Sexually transmitted infections (STI/STDs), mainly untreated chlamydia or gonorrhea, are the main preventable cause of PID.

* Use “condoms”:/sex-safety/using-condoms to reduce the risk of chlamydia and gonorrhea infections.
* “Make an appointment”:/about/appointments/ to get tested for pelvic inflammatory disease.

The surest way to avoid transmission of STIs is to abstain from sexual intercourse until both partners are tested, or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.

h3(#symptoms). Pelvic inflammatory disease symptoms

Symptoms of PID vary from none to severe.

When PID is caused by chlamydial infection, a woman may experience mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, while serious damage is being done to her reproductive organs. Because of vague symptoms, PID goes unrecognized by women and their health care providers about two thirds of the time.

* Women who have symptoms of PID most commonly have lower abdominal pain.

Other signs and symptoms include:

* fever
* unusual vaginal discharge that may have a foul odor
* painful intercourse
* painful urination
* irregular menstrual bleeding
* pain in the right upper abdomen (rare)

h3(#risks). Risks of untreated pelvic inflammatory disease

PID can damage the fallopian tubes and tissues in and near the uterus and ovaries. Untreated PID can lead to serious consequences including infertility, ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy in the fallopian tube or elsewhere outside of the womb), abcess formation, and chronic pelvic pain.

Women with repeated episodes of PID are more likely to suffer infertility, ectopic pregnancy, or chronic pelvic pain.

h3(#tests). Pelvic inflammatory disease tests and diagnosis

PID is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are often subtle and mild. Many episodes of PID go undetected because the woman or her health care provider fails to recognize the implications of mild or nonspecific symptoms.

Because there are no precise tests for PID, a diagnosis is usually based on clinical findings. If symptoms such as lower abdominal pain are present, a health care provider should perform a physical examination. If the findings suggest PID, treatment is necessary. The doctor may order other tests such as a pelvic ultrasound or blood tests.

h3(#treatment). Pelvic inflammatory disease treatment

PID can be cured with several types of antibiotics. A health care provider will determine and prescribe the best therapy. However, antibiotic treatment does not reverse any damage that has already occurred to the reproductive organs. Prompt antibiotic treatment can prevent severe damage to reproductive organs.

The longer a woman delays treatment for PID, the more likely she is to become infertile or to have a future ectopic pregnancy because of damage to the fallopian tubes. Even if symptoms go away, the woman should finish taking all of the prescribed medicine. This will help prevent the infection from returning.

Women being treated for PID should be re-evaluated by their health care provider two to three days after starting treatment to be sure the antibiotics are working to cure the infection. In addition, a woman’s sex partner(s) should be treated to decrease the risk of re-infection, even if the partner(s) has no symptoms.