What is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is characterised by an infection in women’s reproductive organs, that includes the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries.It is an ascending infection that starts at the vagina and travels upto the fallopian tubes and ovaries via the cervix and uterus. As these structures are present in the lower abdomen, which is medically termed as Pelvis, this collective infection is thus named as pelvic inflammatory disease.
Apart from damaging the infected organ, the infection can also spread to the surrounding layers that cover the pelvis and the abdomen and most importantly causes stickiness of organs together, majorly the urinary bladder, bowel and the space behind the uterus and the liver.
What causes Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?
Bacterial infection is the major cause of PID. The main cause of PID is sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as chlamydia, Gonorrhea or Mycoplasma genitalium.
The bacteria enter through the vagina and pass through the cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries and to the surrounding organs. At the time of bacterial infection, the cervix protects the other organ from getting infected. But, in rare cases, the cervix also gets infected. Untreated infection result in PID.
The following are the other factors that cause PID:
- Unsafe sexual practices
- Poor personal hygiene
- Douching – cleaning the inside of the vagina with mixed fluid or water
What are the symptoms of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?
The severity of the symptoms differs among individuals. Diagnosis of PID at early stages is hard as the symptoms will not show up during the early day of the infection. The pain of the symptoms can vary from mild to severe.
The following are the symptoms of PID:
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- Abnormal bleeding
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain during sex
- Pain while urinating
- Painful menstrual cycle
How is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease diagnosed?
No specific test exists for PID. If the above-mentioned symptoms are felt, then consult a doctor.
The diagnosis starts with the discussion of family medical history and the experiencing signs and symptoms. Further diagnosis includes the following:
A pelvic exam
This test is performed to check for swelling in the pelvic region. If needed, the fluid of the vagina and cervix is collected. Then, the collected sample is sent to the lab to check for the infection.
Urine tests will be helpful to find out the infection and usually done as part of PID testing.
This is done to check for infection in the uterus , fallopian tube, ovaries and other abdominal organs
The surgical procedure, where a small sample of tissue from the endometrial (lining of the uterus) is collected and tested for infection.
A laparoscopy is a minor surgical procedure where the entire abdomen is visualized using a camera inserted through a small hole that is made over the belly button. If any cysts or adhesions, organs sticking to each other is seen , it is treated in the same sitting. It is a “ see and treat “ procedure.
What is the treatment for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?
The first step for treatment is antibiotics. It is recommended to follow the prescription as per the instruction of the doctor. The antibiotic will last at least two weeks. The need for hospitalization is decided upon the severity of the infection and symptoms.
Antibiotics will ease the symptoms, so do not quit the medications in the middle, follow them as prescribed. Stopping the medication in the middle of treatment will increase the severity of the condition. If the symptoms did not ease with the prescribed medications, visit the doctor.
In rare cases, surgical treatment for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is performed. The surgery becomes necessary when the abscess (pus caused by the infection) rupture or if it is suspected to rupture. The treatment is also provided when the infection is not responding to the prior medications or treatment.
As Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases are sexually shared and spread, it is better to test the infected person’s sexual partner. Testing & Treating the partner is important because it stops the infection from recurring. If the partner is tested positive with infection, they are treated aggressively and advised safe sexual practices.
What are the complications of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?
If untreated, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease can cause the following complications:
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy that happens outside the womb)
- Infection spreading to nearby organs and tissues
Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases can be cured if diagnosed in their early stage. At the same time, there is a high chance that PID can strike again if the infected person encounters the same bacterial infection. Hence, it is vital to go for treatment at an early stage to avoid complications.