If you’ve ever heard the term PID before, you may be wondering, “What is pelvic inflammatory disease?”
A woman’s reproductive organs—the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and cervix—can be vulnerable to bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause infection. When infection occurs, professionals call this pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can also develop as a complication of some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.
Left untreated, PID can lead to many complications. If you suspect you have PID, take a look at the following symptoms, and talk to your doctor about getting a diagnosis.
Not all women experience the same symptoms of PID. Keep reading to learn about the most common symptoms of PID.
Pelvic pain in women occurs for many reasons, but having pain in certain areas can signal PID. This includes:
Many diseases in the reproductive tract cause similar pain symptoms, so it’s important to rule out other conditions when considering PID.
Women with PID may also experience the following discomforts:
Irregular vaginal discharge in more-than-average amounts or strange colors may also signal PID. Women with this symptom may also notice an unpleasant vaginal odor.
PID may also cause irregular periods. Women with PID sometimes experience heavier-than-normal periods, bleeding between periods, and bleeding after sex.
See this article, Can Your STD Stop Your Period? for more information on irregular menstrual bleeding.
Fever and chills present with most infections, including PID. If you find yourself with a fever at or above 101 degrees Fahrenheit, please see a healthcare provider as soon as possible. PID also causes inflammation of reproductive areas, which may be uncomfortable or painful.
When considering the question, “What is pelvic inflammatory disease?” you may be tempted to self-diagnose. Keep in mind that other diseases can cause these symptoms, such as infections of the urinary or gastrointestinal tracts, so talk to your doctor for a PID diagnosis.
The most common cause of PID is an untreated sexually transmitted infection (STI), especially chlamydia or gonorrhea. If left alone, the bacteria from these infections can spread upward through the reproductive tract, causing the infection of reproductive organs. Click here to learn about the symptoms of chlamydia.
STIs aren’t the only causes of PID. You may also develop PID after:
If you are experiencing any symptoms of PID after one of these events, talk to your doctor.
Several risk factors can affect a woman’s likelihood of getting PID. You may be more at risk of getting PID if you:
If you meet the above criteria, consider regular STI testing with same-day STD testing.
One million women in the U.S. get PID every year, and although it is very treatable, PID can lead to several complications if left untreated. These possible complications include:
So, yes, PID is very serious, but you may avoid complications by getting an early diagnosis and treatment. Be sure to tell your doctor about your symptoms, even if they don’t seem severe. The longer you delay PID treatment, the more likely you will experience one or more of these complications.
A physician will diagnose PID through a medical and sexual history, a pelvic exam, and a vaginal culture. If the diagnosis requires other tests, they may include the following:
Professionals may also test for pregnancy and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Doctors prescribe antibiotics to treat PID. While taking these antibiotics, be sure to finish the antibiotic prescription even if you start feeling better. Abstain from sex until the infection is gone to prevent infecting your partner, who can then re-infect you.
Medication cannot reverse reproductive damage that has already occurred, so seek early diagnosis and treatment.
If this discussion of “What is pelvic inflammatory disease?” sounds familiar, consider a rapid STD test.
You cannot always prevent PID, but you can lower your risk of infection by being safe and smart in your sexual activity. Keep the following in mind to help you prevent PID: