What You Need to Know About Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is the infection affecting the uppermost parts of the female reproductive tract (area above the cervix). It is responsible for causing inflammation of varying degrees to the genital tract. It is usually spread from the vagina and cervix to the uterus, fallopian tubes and the surrounding area. Commonly affected parts are the:
• Endometrium: the innermost part of the womb or uterus. The infection of this area is called an endometritis.
• Fallopian tubes: the tubes through which the egg travels from the ovary to the uterus. The infection of this area is called salpingitis.
• Ovaries: The organs that release eggs at ovulation and produce hormones. The infection of these structures is called ovaritis.
• Peritoneum: The lining of the abdominal cavity. The infection of this area is called peritonitis
In some cases, the infection is severe enough to spread to the liver. If the pelvic inflammatory disease is left untreated, long-term problems such as infertility may arise.
What Causes Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?
The commonest disease-causing entities responsible for causing about 80% of all Pelvic Inflammatory Disease cases are Neisseria Gonorrhoea (responsible for causing gonorrhoea), and Chlamydia trachomatis (responsible for causing chlamydia, Chlamydia trachomatis is widespread around the world).
Who Is Affected?
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is quite common. It is commonest in women between the ages of 15 and 34 who are sexually active because it is virtually a sexually transmitted disease.
How is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease transmitted?
It spreads directly from an infection in the lower parts of the reproductive tract (vaginal or cervical infection) to the upper part. This is usually caused by sexual intercourse but may be a result of medical and surgical procedures (like the insertion of an intrauterine contraceptive device). In rare cases, the infection is spread to the reproductive tract by blood.
What Is At Risk?
The following factors increase your possibility of developing a pelvic inflammatory disease. Having one or more of the following does not suggest that you will definitely develop the pelvic inflammatory disease but the chances are higher if you:
1. Have unprotected sexual intercourse
2. Have multiple sexual partners
3. Have a partner with multiple sexual partners
4. Are poor
5. Douche after sex
6. Started having sexual intercourse below the age of 16
7. Use of dirty linen/pad during menstruation
8. Have had a pelvic inflammatory disease in the past.
9. Recently had an intrauterine contraceptive device inserted
What Are the Symptoms You May Experience?
The following are symptoms frequently encountered in Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases
I. Lower abdominal pain
II. Vaginal discharge
III. Abdominal cramping
IV. Painful menstruation
V. Painful sexual intercourse
VI. Fever and chills
VII. Nausea and vomiting
VIII. D. Pain when urinating
IX. E. Menstrual irregularities and bleeding between one period to another
Infertility is a possibility that sets in when the pelvic inflammatory disease is not properly treated. This occurs due to the formation of disease enclaves in the reproductive tract causing a blockage to the movement of both the egg and the sperm, reducing the possibility of fertilisation.
How Is A Diagnosis Made?
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease may have symptoms similar to other diseases such as appendicitis, endometriosis, or a ruptured ovarian cyst. To make a diagnosis, a doctor will ask you a few questions and then examine you. Thereafter, specific tests are carried out to confirm a diagnosis of pelvic inflammatory disease. These may include blood tests, urine tests, swab tests, pregnancy test and an abdominal scan.
Laparoscopy, the use of a fibre-optic instrument to view the organs in the body via surgery is the standard way of making a diagnosis of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.
How Is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Treated?
Treatment is proffered via the use of antibiotic medications. These are often given in a combination to increase the possibility of eliminating the microorganisms causing the disease. In severe cases, you may need to be admitted to ensure proper and adequate management, usually with injectable medications (intravenous antibiotics). If a collection of pus (called an abscess) formed in the reproductive tract, a surgical procedure (called a laparoscopy) may be performed. This may also be used to make a diagnosis.
In addition to causing infertility, the pelvic inflammatory disease may also increase the chances of an ectopic pregnancy (a condition where implantation of the fertilised egg happens outside the womb, causing great distress and blood loss which may be severe enough to lead to death) and cause long-term pelvic pain.
How Can One Prevent Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases?
Prevention is aimed at educating young women and girls about their sexual health and the prevention of sexually transmitted infections. This includes educating them about contraceptives use, especially those able to protect against sexually transmitted infections (e.g. condoms) and having sex with one partner who only has with you.