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Definition:

Pelvic inflammatory disease is a general term for infection of the uterus lining, fallopian tubes, or ovaries.

See also: Endometritis



Alternative Names:

PID; Oophoritis; Salpingitis; Salpingo-oophoritis; Salpingo-peritonitis



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Most cases of pelvic inflammatory disease are caused by the same bacteria that lead to sexually transmitted diseases (such as chlamydia , gonorrhea , mycoplasma, staph, and strep).

The most common cause of PID is through sexual contact. However, bacteria may also enter the body after gynecological procedures such as:

In the United States, nearly 1 million women develop PID each year. About 1 in 8 sexually active adolescent girls will develop PID before age 20. Since PID is often undiagnosed, statistics are probably greatly underestimated.

Risk factors include:

  • Insertion of an IUD
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Past history of any sexually transmitted disease
  • Past history of PID
  • Sexual activity during adolescence

Birth control pills are thought in some cases to lead to cervical ectropion , a condition that allows easier access to tissue where bacteria may grow. However, birth control pills may protect against PID by stimulating the body to produce a thicker cervical mucus. This makes it harder for semen to carry bacteria to the uterus.



Symptoms:

The most common symptoms of PID include:

  • Fever (not always present; may come and go)
  • Pain in the abdomen or pelvis
  • Vaginal discharge with abnormal color, texture, or smell

Other symptoms that may occur with PID:

Note: There may be no symptoms. People who experience an ectopic pregnancy or infertility often have silent PID, which is usually caused by chlamydia infection.



Signs and tests:

You may have a fever and abdominal tenderness . A pelvic examination may show:

  • A cervix that bleeds easily
  • Cervical discharge
  • Pain with movement of the cervix
  • Tenderness in the uterus or ovaries

Tests and procedures may include:



Treatment:

If you are diagnosed with mild PID, you may be given antibiotics and told to closely follow-up with your health care provider.

More severe cases may require you to stay in the hospital. Antibiotics are first given by IV, and then later by mouth. Which antibiotic is used depends on the type of infection.

  • A number of different antibiotics may be used for treating infections that occur after gynecological procedures.
  • Chlamydia can be treated with a variety of antibiotics, including azithromycin, tetracyclines, quinolones, and erythromycin. Erythromycin and azithromycin are safe in pregnant women.
  • See gonorrhea for its specific treatment recommendations.

Surgery may be considered for complicated cases that do not improve with antibiotics. Any sexual partner(s) must also be treated. It is essential that you use condoms during treatment.



Support Groups:



Complications:

PID infections can cause scarring of the pelvic organs, possibly leading to:



Calling your health care provider:

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of PID. Also call if you think you have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease or if treatment of a current STD does not seem to be working.



Prevention:

Preventive measure include:

  • Get prompt treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Practice safer sex behaviors. The only absolute way to prevent an STD is to not have sex (abstinence). Having a sexual relationship with only one person (monogamous) can reduce the risk. Use a condom every time you have sex. (See: Safe sex .)

You can reduce the risk of PID by getting regular STD screening exams. Couples can be tested for STDs before starting to have sex. Testing can detect STDs that may not be producing symptoms yet.

All sexually active women ages 20 - 25 and younger should be screened each year for chlamydia and gonorrhea. All women with new sexual partners or multiple partners should also be screened.



References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Update to sexually transmitted diseases guidelines, 2006: fluoroquinolones no longer recommended for treatment of gonococcal infections. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2007;56:332-336.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for Gonorrhea: Recommendation Statement. Am Fam Physician. 2005;72:1783-1786.

Meyers D, Wolff T, Gregory K, et al. USPSTF recommendations for STI screening. Am Fam Physician. 2008;77:819-824.




Review Date: 9/7/2008
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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Phone: (603) 742-5252
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