Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a condition caused by bacterial infection in the upper reproductive tract that can affect the following:

  • fallopian tubes
  • uterus
  • ovaries
  • cervix
  • abdominal lining

PID causes organs to become inflamed and swollen. Scar tissue can develop as a result, causing infertility or increasing the risk of an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that develops in a fallopian tube). PID can also cause abscesses on the ovaries or fallopian tubes that are difficult to treat. If left untreated, it can be a serious and life-threatening condition. Women with HIV have an increased risk for recurring and difficult-to-treat PID, so make sure to see your doctor if you think you might have a sexually transmitted infection, and get regular Pap tests.

Causes

PID is caused by the spread of bacteria through the reproductive organs. It is usually the result of an untreated sexually transmitted infection, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia. Because women do not always have symptoms, these infections can go unnoticed and untreated.

Symptoms

If you have any symptom you think might be related to an untreated sexually transmitted infection, see a doctor as soon as you can:

  • burning or itching around the vagina
  • recurring tenderness in the abdomen or lower back
  • unusual vaginal discharge
  • an unusual smell from the vagina
  • irregular periods
  • bleeding or spotting between periods
  • pain during urination or sex
  • fever

Treatment

PID is usually treated with antibiotics. If severe, the infection may require you to be hospitalized. If you have abscesses that don’t clear up with treatment, surgery may be necessary.

Prevention

  • Practise safer sex: condoms, gloves, and dental dams
  • Get regular Pap smears