Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of a woman’s reproductive organs. The infection spreads up through the cervix (opening of the uterus), into the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and lowest part of the abdomen (belly, pelvic area). Infection tends to spread most easily during menses.
When PID is diagnosed and treated early usually there are no long-term complications. However, PID can scar fallopian tubes and ovaries, making it hard to get pregnant or causing an ectopic pregnancy (fetus grows in a fallopian tube).
The cause is usually having sex with a person infected with gonorrhea or chlamydia, or other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Chances of getting PID increase with a new sexual partner, or more than one partner, and using an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control.
The most common symptoms are pelvic pain, with or without fever and increased vaginal discharge.
The health care provider makes a diagnosis from symptoms plus a physical and pelvic examination and laboratory tests. Blood tests will show if an infection is present. In premenopausal women, a pregnancy test should be done before starting treatment. Sometimes, symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy are the same as PID symptoms, and the health care provider needs to know which is causing symptoms. Other tests to check for infection include a culture from the cervix. For a culture, the cervix is swabbed, as for a Pap smear, and tested.
Imaging tests may also be done to get pictures of inside the body and exclude other medical disorders causing similar symptoms. These tests include ultrasonography (uses sound waves), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computed tomography (CT).
Early treatment is best, before the infection spreads.
The health care provider may prescribe a combination of antibiotics given by injection and taken by mouth (oral), or just oral antibiotic. Severe infections may first need a hospital stay and antibiotics given intravenously.
If there is a pocket of pus around a fallopian tube or an ovary that doesn’t get better with antibiotics, the doctor may operate (usually laparoscopic surgery) to drain the pus. Laparoscopic surgery is done through a special lighted tube put into a small cut in the belly.
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