This is the third in a series of five blogs about common conditions that can cause abnormal uterine bleeding.
What is pelvic inflammatory disease?
Infections are never pleasant. They can cause pain, fever, chills, dizziness, fatigue and other symptoms. But when infections occur in your reproductive organs, they can be especially difficult. When your reproductive organs are subjected to bacteria from by a sexually transmitted disease, inflammation can occur. When it does, this condition is called pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID. If left untreated, pelvic inflammatory disease can interfere with your ability to have children: It’s the leading cause of preventable infertility in women. It’s also a rising concern at our practice, because we’ve seen higher-than-usual incidence of chlamydia, which is one of many sexually transmitted diseases that can lead to PID if untreated. Nationwide, the rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, which are the three most commonly reported sexually transmitted diseases in the United States, have reached record levels in recent years. And because many women are used to periodic pain or are too embarrassed to act, PID can be undiagnosed and untreated, which can lead to additional complications, such as internal scarring, ongoing pain, miscarriages and difficulty getting pregnant, so it’s imperative to understand pelvic inflammatory disease symptoms.
What are pelvic inflammatory disease symptoms?
PID can be the result of complications from a number of sexually transmitted infections, so it’s important to seek treatment as soon as you notice any symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease. Here are the main ones:
- Pain in your lower abdomen or pelvis. PID pain is usually much more intense than regular menstrual cramping. If you experience intense cramping or shooting pain in your lower abdomen or pelvis (and sometimes even your lower back), you should contact your gynecologist immediately, especially if you are not having your period. In some cases, PID pain can be mild. And in the case of chlamydia infections, there may no pain until you’ve had the infection for a while.
- Painful urination. Painful urination is most often a symptom of a bladder infection. If it is untreated and travels into your uterus or ovaries, it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease. Extreme pain while urinating is a common PID symptom, and may need to be treated with a stronger round of antibiotics than a simple bladder infection.
- Vaginal discharge with an odor. If you notice an excessive amount of discharge accompanied by an unusual odor, it could be a symptom of pelvic inflammatory disease. If the infection has not yet reached your uterus through your cervix, there may not be pelvic pain.
- Fever higher than 101 degrees. A fever of more than 101 degrees can be a sign that your body is fighting an infection. If your fever lasts more than two days, see your healthcare provider to evaluate your symptoms. If your fever is occurs along with vaginal discharge or pelvic pain, you may have pelvic inflammatory disease.
- Pain during sex. Pain during intercourse—especially if it’s a recent development—can be an indication of pelvic inflammatory disease. You may also have a bladder or yeast infection, or simply irritation from frequent or energetic sexual activity. But if you have an infection and it’s left untreated, it can result in pelvic inflammatory disease.
What to do if you think you may have PID
If you have pelvic inflammatory disease symptoms and think there’s a chance you might have PID, contact your healthcare provider. Remember that the earlier you’re treated, the lower your chances of experiencing long-term complications. In most cases, your healthcare provider will diagnose your symptoms by taking swabs, testing your urine and possibly your blood, and possibly conducting an ultrasound scan of your pelvic organs.
It’s also important to consider your sexual partner or partners. Even if they don’t have symptoms, they should also be checked and treated to reduce the chance of them developing infections or infecting others.
In the meantime, remember to practice safe sex and get regular STI screens if you’re sexually active with a new partner. Condoms are much more pleasant than PID!
If you have any questions about abnormal uterine bleeding or uterine fibroids, feel free to contact us for more information and to discuss your particular situation. More information can be found below.
Dr. John M. Garofalo, M.D.: pelvic inflammatory disease
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: frequently asked questions on pelvic inflammatory disease
About the practice
Dr. John Garofalo, M.D., is an ob-gyn located in Fairfield County, Connecticut. He has more than 20 years of practice and surgical experience covering many facets of obstetrics and gynecology.
Laury Berkwitt, APRN, is a nurse practitioner specializing in women’s health in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Laury has a passion for providing quality women’s health care in a safe and comfortable manner by creating a trusting patient-practitioner relationship. She has been in practice for more than 10 years, caring for women of all ages.
For more information, go to www.garofaloobgyn.com. John Garofalo, MD, and Laury Berkwitt, APRN, can be reached for personal consultations by calling 203.803.1098.