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What Is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?

PID is an infection of the reproductive organs. Left untreated, it can cause severe damage to the body. PID sometimes causes symptoms bad enough to send you to the emergency room. But in many cases, PID is a “silent” infection with few or no symptoms. Rest assured that the infection can be treated. This can help prevent lasting damage.

Doctor and patient
PID won’t go away on its own. You must see your healthcare provider for treatment.

Who Gets PID?

Although PID can happen at any age, most women get it in their late teens or early twenties. Many don’t know they have PID until years later. The longer a woman is infected, the higher her risk of further health problems.

What Are the Symptoms?

If PID symptoms do occur, they are similar to those of many other health problems. This can make PID hard to detect. Symptoms can include:

  • Pelvic pain

  • Pain during sex, or bleeding afterward

  • Painful or frequent urination

  • Fever, chills, or other flu-like symptoms

  • Vaginal discharge with a bad odor

How Did I Get PID? Cutaway view of vagina

PID occurs when certain bacteria infect the reproductive organs. Often, this happens because you are infected with an STD (sexually transmitted disease). In a few cases, women develop PID while using an IUD (intrauterine device) for birth control.

  1. Semen is sent from the penis into the vagina during sex. STD-causing bacteria may enter with the semen.

  2. Bacteria may pass through the cervix and enter the uterus.

  3. Bacteria travel from the uterus into the fallopian tubes and ovaries, which become infected.

  4. The infection can leave the fallopian tubes and spread to other parts of the body.

Treatment Can Help

When PID is found and treated early, it can often be cured. But if not treated, PID can cause severe complications (health problems). These include damage to the reproductive organs, pelvic pain, and infertility (problems becoming pregnant). Complications of PID can, in rare cases, even be life-threatening. This is why PID should be treated as early as possible.

Online Medical Reviewer: Gilman, Diana, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Iglesia, Cheryl, MD
Last Review Date: 11/7/2011
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.