STI fact sheet: Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

PID as it is commonly referred, it an infection of the womb or uterus, fallopian tubes, and other reproductive organs that causes symptoms like lower abdominal pain. It is an advanced complication from bacterial infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. PID can cause irreparable damage to the reproductive system of a woman leading to infertility, chronic pelvic pain, abscess formation, and ectopic pregnancy.

PID occurs when the bacteria from other STIs moves upwards from a woman's vagina or cervix into her reproductive organs. Sexually active females below 25 are more at risk because their cervix is not fully matured hence increased susceptibility to STDs  linking to PID. Therefore, the more sexual partners one has, the riskier it is. Other risk increasing factors include women who have IUDs (intrauterine devices)installed as contraceptives or use contraceptives as well as those who douche.

Symptoms of PID vary from mild to severe, with women with chlamydial infections having the mildest symptoms even during serious damage. Because of the vagueness of these symptoms, PID can go undetected or unrecognized by the healthcare providers and the infected women. However, the most common symptom is lower abdominal pain, foul odor, painful urination and intercourse, and irregular menstrual bleeding.

Prompt and appropriate treatment for PID is necessary to avoid permanent damage to the woman's reproductive system. Partially blocked fallopian tubes are responsible for severe ectopic pregnancies which may lead to death. Other cases suffer from infertility or chronic pelvic pain.

Hospitalization to treat PID may be recommended if the woman (1) is severely ill (e.g., nausea, vomiting, and high fever); (2) is pregnant; (3) does not respond to or cannot take oral medication and needs intravenous antibiotics; (4) has an abscess in the fallopian tube or ovary (tubo-ovarian abscess); or (5) needs to be monitored to be sure that her symptoms are not due to another condition that would require emergency surgery (e.g., appendicitis). If symptoms continue or if an abscess does not go away, surgery may be needed.

Women can protect themselves from PID by taking action to prevent STDs or by getting early treatment if they do get an STD. The surest way to avoid transmission of STDs is to abstain from sexual intercourse, or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected. Latex male condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of transmission of chlamydia and gonorrhea.