Combat Pelvic Inflammatory Disease With Awareness and Education

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

With nearly a million women being diagnosed each year with pelvic inflammatory disease in North America itself, this is a condition that affects most women at some point of their lives. The term pelvic inflammatory disease broadly refers to inflammation or swelling of the pelvic region in women caused by an infection. This can affect various upper reproductive tract organs such as the uterus, the fallopian tubes, and the ovaries, and can be caused by different types of infection but usually through the vaginal-cervical route. Though the most common symptom of pelvic inflammatory disease is lower abdominal pain, this condition is made more difficult to treat because of the fact that very often symptoms are very mild or totally absent. The adverse effects of pelvic inflammatory disease on future fertility, the high rate of relapse, along with the silent nature of certain instances of this disease, such as with Chlamydial infections, make it a major threat to the reproductive health of women worldwide. The weapons with which this condition can be combated and eliminated are awareness and education, hand in hand with timely interventions.

Pelvic inflammatory disease is most commonly caused by bacterial infection, and the most instances are transmitted through unsafe sexual activity. Gonorrhea and Chlamydia constitute the highest incidences of primary infections causing pelvic inflammatory disease in the United States. As the disease process kicks in, many other secondary infections from other bacteria also are seen, such as Gardnerella and Cytomegalovirus. Studies have shown that there are certain predisposing factors that make some women more susceptible to developing pelvic inflammatory disease than others. These include prior history of pelvic inflammatory disease, bacterial vaginosis, history of contraceptive intrauterine device insertion, history of abortion, and being at high risk for sexually transmitted infections. Cases of pelvic inflammatory disease have also been documented as being caused by infections secondary to childbirth and endometrial biopsies.


The most common symptom of pelvic inflammatory disease is lower abdominal pain. Along with this, there may be vaginal bleeding that may have an unpleasant smell, irregular periods, unusual and irregular bleeding, pain with sexual activity or dyspareunia, low back pain, difficulty urinating, pain or burning with urination, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and fatigue. Many of these symptoms may not be severe enough to alarm you, but if they are persistent, it is best that they be clinically evaluated at the earliest. Many of the milder symptoms are typical of sexually transmitted infections, and can be prevented from advancing to pelvic inflammatory disease, if treated early on.


After a thorough history taking and physical examination to establish your health behaviors and your risk for pelvic inflammatory disease as well as clinical signs of infection, your physicians will want to test your urine, culture it for growth, and take cervical and vaginal tissue samples to identify the particular infection that may be present. In addition to this, to help clarify the extent of the condition and to confirm the diagnosis in more advanced or complicated cases, some physicians may also want to conduct studies such as a pelvic ultrasound, endometrial biopsy, or laparoscopy.


Treatment of pelvic inflammatory disease is usually done through a course of oral antibiotics that you can take at home. Once the tests establish, which antibiotics the infection is sensitive to, your physician will start you on a course of that antibiotic. You may also be given medication to help cope with the pain and discomfort. It is likely that you will be advised to take it easy and rest yourself as much as possible. Your partner may also need to be treated if the infection came from him. You will be advised to abstain from sexual activity till both you and your partner are tested again and found to be free from infection. A common mistake that many patients make is to discontinue their antibiotic medications once their symptoms go away or become less severe. This not only increases the chance of the infection reappearing again in the short term, but also makes the infecting bacteria more resistant to the antibiotics, making future treatment of the condition that much more difficult. In some cases, where the pelvic inflammatory disease presents with other disease conditions, or where it does not respond to routine treatment with oral antibiotics, your physicians may want to admit you to a hospital so that they can treat you with intravenous antibiotics while monitoring other complications.

Given the fact that a large number of cases of pelvic inflammatory disease occur in women who have had a prior history of the same condition, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, with safe sex precautions, and routine gynecologic and pelvic exams become essential in preventing a relapse of this disease. These same measures have been found to be effective in preventing the occurrence of the disease in the first place too.

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