Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is a condition caused by a bacterial infection in a woman's reproductive organs. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as Chlamydia are often the culprit, however other bacterial infections can also cause PID. Notably, women who douche have a higher risk of developing PID, and some women contract PID as a result of an intrauterine device (IUD) placement.
PID occurs when bacteria from a woman's cervix or vagina move upward to the womb or fallopian tubes and surrounding tissue, where serious damage can occur. Left untreated, PID can cause an ectopic pregnancy, abscess formation, long-term pelvic pain, and ultimately infertility. Moreover, the risk of contracting PID increases with prior PID incidence since a woman's reproductive organs may become damaged during the initial bout of infection.
There are a number of symptoms associated with Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. Most common is lower abdominal pain, as well as pain in the lower back. Other possible PID symptoms include irregular menstrual cycles and heavy vaginal discharge with a foul odor. Some women experience pain when passing urine and when having intercourse, and as common with any infection, women may report fever, nausea and vomiting.
In the case of Chlamydia, however, which is unique in that it often occurs asymptomatically (without apparent or external symptoms), PID can likewise occur with few or no symptoms. This means that some women may have PID without knowing it, and thus serious damage to a woman's reproductive organs may go unrecognized. In particular, infection that enters the fallopian tubes can scar tissue, and scarred tissue may block the movement of eggs into the uterus, preventing fertilization (union of an egg with sperm). As a result, undetected and untreated Chlamydia infection can result in temporary or permanent infertility, and the risk of infertility increases when a woman has multiple episodes of PID.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all sexually active individuals (men and women) be tested yearly for Chlamydia and other STDs. Women who are at particular risk for contracting PID and who should defiantly be tested are sexually active women at age 25 and under, pregnant women, and women with new or multiple sex partners.
The best way to prevent PID and all STD-related complications is abstinence or being in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and has been shown to be uninfected. Safe sex practices such as the use of condoms is also critical, however it is important to note that even proper condom use does not guarantee immunity from infection.
PID can be prevented by treating STDs such as Chlamydia early on. In most cases, PID is treated with antibiotics. Usually an oral regimen is sufficient to fight the infection, but in severe cases intravenous antibiotics in a hospital setting may be required.