EBSCO Health

Print PageSend to a Friend
Health Library Home>Disease, Condition, & Injury Fact Sheets>Article

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

(PID; Salpingitis)

Definition

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female pelvic organs. This includes the ovaries, uterus, vagina, and bladder.

Causes

PID is caused by bacteria. It is often due to a sexually transmitted infection (STI). The most common ones are gonorrhea and chlamydia.

Risk Factors

PID is most common in women 15 to 29 years of age and sexually active. Other things that may increase the risk of PID include:

  • Current STI or one in the past
  • Sex with more than one person
  • Sex with a man who has an STI
  • Sex without a condom
  • Having an intrauterine device (IUD) placed when STI is present

Symptoms

Some women do not have symptoms. Those that do may have:

  • Pain in the lower belly and pelvis
  • Fever
  • Bleeding or fluid with a foul odor from vagina
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain when voiding
  • Back pain
  • Nausea or vomiting

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may suspect PID based on symptoms and exam. An internal exam of the pelvis may be done. A sample of fluid from the vagina may be taken. It will be sent to a lab for testing. Other tests may include:

  • Urine tests—to check for pregnancy or infection
  • Blood tests—to check for signs of infection

Treatment

Antibiotics can treat the infection. Sex partners should also get treated or the infection will continue. Hospital care may be needed if the infection does not clear with basic care.

PID can cause damage to pelvic organs if it is not treated. This can lead to problems with fertility, pregnancy, and cause long term pain.

Prevention

Steps that may help to prevent PID include:

  • Use a condom when you have sex. Put it on before genital contact.
  • Limit the number of people you have sex with.
  • Get tested for STIs. Test yearly or after sexual contact with new partners.
RESOURCES:

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
http://www.acog.org

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
http://www.niaid.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
http://www.sogc.org

Women's Health Matters
http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca

REFERENCES:

2015 STD treatment guidelines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/. Updated January 25, 2017. Accessed October 4, 2019.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)—CDC fact sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/pid/STDFact-PID.htm. Updated July 10, 2017. Accessed October 4, 2019.

Pelvic inflammatory disease. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114793/Pelvic-inflammatory-disease-PID. Updated September 9, 2019. Accessed October 4, 2019.

Last reviewed October 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kathleen A. Barry, MD  Last Updated: 10/4/2019