Pelvic inflammatory disease or PID is oftentimes a silent but deadly illness. Many women aren’t even aware that they have PID because its symptoms are usually very mild to none. PID is a general term for the infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and other female reproductive organs. It’s commonly caused by sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), especially bacterial infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia. PID can lead to infertility in women if left untreated or if treated too late during infection. The following are ways to get rid of PID if you suspect that you have it.
Diagnosis of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
There are no precise tests for PID, so diagnosis is usually based on clinical findings. Many physicians fail to diagnose PID because patients don’t complain of subtle symptoms. The first step to prevent or cure PID is to have a proper diagnosis.
Consult your doctor immediately if you suspect that you have PID. He may order tests to identify the organism that causes the infection; for instance, whether it’s a gonorrheal or chlamydial infection. Some health problems like appendicitis may have similar symptoms to PID, so early diagnosis is critical to determine the proper treatment procedure.
Ultrasound may be used to view the pelvic area, to see whether the fallopian tubes are inflamed, or whether abscess is present. Laparoscopy is also used in some cases to confirm the diagnosis of PID. Laparoscopy is a surgical procedure that involves the insertion of a thin, rigid tube with a camera and lighted end through a small incision in the abdomen. This enables the doctor to view the internal pelvic organs and take laboratory specimens.
Signs and Symptoms of PID
In the United States, it’s estimated that more than one million women experience acute PID each year. More than 100,000 women become infertile each year because of the disease; and a large number of ectopic pregnancies also occur each year because of severe PID. You’re not completely safe from PID until you recognize its signs and symptoms, which include the following:
- Low back pain
- Painful or difficult urination
- Fatigue, fever, diarrhea, and vomiting
- Pain in your pelvis and lower abdomen
- Irregular menstruation
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Heavy vaginal discharge with foul odor
PID caused by chlamydial infection is especially dangerous because it lacks signs and symptoms, and sometimes exhibits no symptoms at all until the condition is already serious. Go to the emergency room if you experience the following severe PID symptoms:
- Severe pain in your lower abdomen
- Fever higher than 101 F
- Signs of shock, such as fainting
Treating Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Whether PID is curable or not depends on the actual cause of infection. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are curable, but if your PID is being caused by a more serious illness; for instance, a combination of HIV and another bacterial STD, then treatment is difficult, and symptoms may not disappear. The following are the most common treatments for PID.
- Antibiotics: Most cases of PID can be treated with antibiotics in pill form. Your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics for two weeks; and he may ask you to return for a checkup after two or three days. Remember to take your antibiotics on time, and to take them for some time even after your symptoms stop to reduce your risk of a PID recurrence.
- Rest, and eat a healthy diet: It’s important to get plenty of rest if you’re experiencing pelvic pain. You may take medicines like aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve the pain. Try to put a heating pad on your stomach as you lay on the bed to feel more relaxed and get your blood flowing properly. Also, eat a healthy, balanced diet, and drink plenty of fluids to make your recovery faster.
- Do not douche or use tampons: Douching or using tampons push the bacteria further into your internal pelvic organs, causing more damage. Completely avoid these practices or wait until you’re clear of the infection before continuing to do them.
- Abstain from sex: Sexual intercourse will only further put your pelvic organs under more stress, so abstain from it until you’re completely cured. In addition, you could transmit the infection during sex; or if your partner has STD, he’ll further transmit more bacteria or viruses into your body. Although condoms help to reduce the risk of transmission, it’s still best to wait until you’re cured before having sex.
- Have your partner checked for STD: You won’t be cured of PID if your sexual partner keeps transmitting bacteria or viruses into your body every time you have sex. Have him checked for STD immediately once you’re diagnosed with PID. Symptoms of gonorrhea and chlamydia among men include yellow pus-like discharge from the penis, and painful or difficult urination. Abstain from sex until both of you are cured of the infection.
- Hospitalization: If oral antibiotic treatment is not successful, your doctor may suggest that you enter a hospital for intravenous (IV) antibiotics. In some cases, intravenous antibiotics are the best choice for treatment right after diagnosis. This is the case if you:
- are experiencing high fever, severe nausea, and vomiting
- are pregnant
- have a weak immune system
- have an abscess in your fallopian tubes, called “tubo-ovarian abscess”
- can’t tolerate oral antibiotics or follow the schedule
- Surgery: Sometimes, PID causes tubo-ovarian abscess or a swollen area full of pus in the fallopian tubes or the ovary. In many cases, antibiotics can eliminate the swelling and pus. If the abscess breaks, however, it can spread infection to other pelvic organs and cause peritonitis, which requires emergency surgery.
Surgery can also be used to remove scar tissues or adhesions joining two pelvic organs. Adhesions can cause infertility or ectopic pregnancy if they block your fallopian tubes. During surgery, your doctor will cut the adhesions joining the organs, and then remove all the scar tissue. Two different surgical techniques can be used depending on the size and location of the scar tissue:
- Laparoscopic surgery involves the insertion of a thin, lighted camera to guide the surgical procedure. You are given an anesthetic; and the camera, called a laparoscope, is then inserted through an incision near your belly button. Expect three to five days of abdominal pain following the procedure, after which you can resume your regular daily activities.
- Laparotomy is done if the scar tissues or adhesions of PID put you in grave danger. Laparotomy is a major surgery, so a general anesthetic is used. The doctor makes an incision in the abdominal wall to access the pelvic organs suffering from the adhesions. It usually requires about two to four days hospitalization, and about four to six weeks recovery time.
Consult your doctor immediately if you experience even mild lower back pains or fatigue. Bacterial infections can damage your internal pelvic organs without any noticeable symptom. Get diagnosed early, treat the disease fast, and get back to living a normal life.
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