Pelvic Inflammatory Disease - Symptoms, Risk factors and Treatment

Pelvic inflammatory disease is the infection and inflammation of the female reproductive organs. 

Anatomy of the female internal reproductive organs:

The female reproductive organs constitute the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, and vagina.

The ovaries are responsible for producing an egg (ovum) every month and the uterus is responsible for bearing the fetus throughout the pregnancy. The fallopian tubes, also known as oviducts, connect the uterus with the ovaries giving a passage for the egg to come to the uterus. The uterus is connected to the vagina or birth canal, a muscular canal that is responsible for the reception of the penis during sexual intercourse and the provision of a passageway for the baby during childbirth. The vagina connects the uterus to the external reproductive organs.

Risk factors for pelvic inflammatory disease

The risk factors for pelvic inflammatory disease are;

  • Sexual intercourse 

  • An Intrauterine device (IUD)

  • Childbirth

  • Cervical biopsy

  • Endometrial biopsy

  • Dilation and curettage (D&C)

  • Miscarriage

  • Abortion

Organisms that can cause Pelvic inflammatory disease

Sexually transmitted infections are one of the most common causes of pelvic inflammatory disease.

Some of the organisms that can cause pelvic inflammatory disease are:

  • Gonococcus

  • Chlamydia

  • Staphylococci

  • Streptococci

  • Mycoplasma

Gonococcus and chlamydia are the most common causes of pelvic inflammatory disease. Gonococcus causes gonorrhea.

Symptoms of Pelvic inflammatory disease

The pelvic inflammatory disease may be asymptomatic and when becomes symptomatic, the following symptoms may be present:

  • Abnormal, foul-smelling vaginal discharge

  • Backache

  • Spotting in between periods

  • Frequent urination

  • Painful urination

  • Pain during periods (dysmenorrhea)

  • Pain during sex (dyspareunia)

  • Fever

  • Nausea 

  • Vomiting

Complications of Pelvic inflammatory disease

If left untreated, pelvic inflammatory disease can become complicated. The following complications may arise:

The spread of infection to sex partners:

Many infections are transmitted by sexual contact. Having sex when infected can spread the infection to the sex partners too and this infection can spread further by sexual contact.

The spread of infection to other organs:

In the human body, organs are closely related to each other and they share the blood supply and lymph vessels with each other. The blood and lymph can serve as a transport medium for different organisms to spread to different organs. Moreover, the infection can spread by local invasion too, complicating the infection further.

Ectopic pregnancy:

Pelvic inflammatory disease can result in an ectopic pregnancy which is due to damage to the fallopian tubes, preventing the egg from reaching the uterus. Ectopic pregnancy means implantation of the fetus anywhere other than the uterus. The most common location for ectopic pregnancy is the fallopian tubes. Ectopic pregnancy is dangerous as it may rupture leading to severe bleeding.


One of the complications of pelvic inflammatory disease is infertility due to permanent damage and scarring of the fallopian tubes that block the passage of the egg thereby preventing the fertilization of the egg. 

Tubo-ovarian abscess:

A tubo-ovarian abscess is a collection of pus in the ovaries and the fallopian tubes. It can be life-threatening if the abscess ruptures which will spread the infection to other organs.


If left untreated, pelvic inflammatory disease can cause sepsis and septic shock.

Treatment of pelvic inflammatory disease:

The treatment of pelvic inflammatory disease usually involves the administration of antibiotics to clear up the bacteria. Surgery may be recommended if the infection is complicated. The sexual partner of the infected person may need antibiotics too as they may also be infected and can spread the infection to others and back to the treated patient.


Pelvic inflammatory disease is the infection of the female reproductive system. It is a treatable disease, but if left untreated, complications may arise. Timely diagnosis and treatment can prevent different complications.

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