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Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: Causes and Treatment

Gainesville well woman care physicians at All About Women discuss the sometimes difficult to diagnose Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is a serious women's health issue and yet, you probably don't even know what it is. That's because PID can be vague, sometimes asymptomatic, and difficult to diagnose. And yet, PID can lead to serious complications including infertility. All women should educate themselves about the potential symptoms of PID and be prepared to call their well woman care provider should they ever experience them.

PID occurs when one or more of a woman's reproductive organs become inflamed from harmful bacteria that have entered the reproductive tract. This inflammation can cause abscesses or scar tissue to form in places such as the fallopian tubes. If left untreated, the abscesses and tissue can, in turn, cause several conditions:

•  Chronic pelvic pain. Untreated PID can cause severe pelvic pain for months or years.

•  Infertility. If enough scar tissue forms in the fallopian tubes, it can prevent the ability of sperm to join with an egg.

•  In the case of pregnancy, an ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg begins to grow somewhere other than the uterus, usually in the fallopian tubes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that PID is one of the main causes of ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancy can be deadly and must be treated immediately.

Causes of PID

Undetected chlamydia and gonorrhea are the two main causes of PID. Both of these sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are usually asymptomatic in women and thus often go unnoticed. These STIs highlight the importance of all women having an annual well woman care exam and being screened for relevant STIs. You can learn more about these infections in our article Silent STIs: Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is sometimes caused by bacteria that are not associated with gonorrhea and chlamydia. Other potential causes of PID include bacterial vaginosis and picking up a bacteria through a surgical procedure such as an endometrial biopsy or abortion.

Who's at Risk for PID?

Those that are at high risk for pelvic inflammatory disease include women who are:

•  Under the age of 25

•  Have more than one sex partner

•  Have chlamydia or gonorrhea

•  Have a past history of PID or any STIs

Women who douche are also at a higher risk for PID. This may be because douching upsets the natural flora balance in the reproductive tract, allowing harmful bacteria to grow. It may also push harmful bacteria higher up the reproductive tract. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) does not recommend douching.


According to the National Institutes of Health, the most common signs of PID are:

•  Tenderness or pain in the pelvic region, abdomen, or back

•  Foul smelling or off-colored vaginal discharge

•  A fever that comes and goes

If you have any of these symptoms, you should call your well woman care provider immediately. You may have a case of PID that needs to be treated, or you may have another serious condition such as appendicitis or ectopic pregnancy.

Other symptoms of PID may include:

•  Painful intercourse

•  Painful, frequent urination

•  Spotting; irregular or heavy menstrual periods

•  Pain in the upper right abdomen

•  Nausea or vomiting

Some women who have PID will have no symptoms. These are the most dangerous cases of PID because they are less likely to be detected and more likely to cause significant damage to a woman's reproductive organs.

Because of the wide array of possible symptoms, or the lack of symptoms altogether, PID can be difficult to diagnose. Having an annual well woman exam that includes screening for STIs and being honest about your sexual history with your health care provider can help protect your reproductive health.

Diagnosis and Treatment

PID is diagnosed through a pelvic exam that can reveal any tenderness of the uterus or ovaries. Women may have a tender cervix that bleeds easily. If so, your doctor will test you for certain bacteria, including chlamydia and gonorrhea. Your doctor may also perform an ultrasound or laparoscopy to investigate the amount of damage done by PID.

Antibiotics, either oral or by shot, are used to treat PID. The course of treatment is usually 10 to 14 days. Even if symptoms are relieved before the end of an antibiotic round, you should always complete the antibiotic to ensure the bacteria will not begin to grow back. You should not have sex while you are being treated for PID, and you should ensure your sex partner is free of STIs before having sex again to prevent reinfection. While antibiotics will kill the bacteria causing PID, they are unable to undo any damage done by the disease.

Pelvic inflammatory disease, while easily treated, can be difficult to recognize and diagnose. Untreated PID can have serious complications. That's why it's important for all women to receive an annual exam from a well woman care provider who they have an ongoing relationship with. The well woman care physicians of All About Women in Gainesville and Lake City provide compassionate and attentive care for women at all stages of life.

If you need to make an appointment or have questions about PID or other reproductive health concerns, don't hesitate to contact our office today.

Contact us
‹ All About Women OB/GYN Knowledge Center

6440 W Newberry Road, Suite 111
Gainesville, FL 32605
(352) 331-3332
Lake City
4447 NW American Lane, Suite 102
Lake City, FL 32055
(386) 754-1744

Gainesville and Lake City OB/GYN Care

OB/GYN doctors at All About Women, Obstetrics & Gynecology offer personalized, technologically advanced obstetrics and gynecology services from Board Certified OB/GYB physicians. Besides expert women's healthcare, permanent birth control and prenatal care, OB/GYN doctors also offers advanced hysterectomy surgery in and around the Gainesville area.

Women's Health Care in Alachua & Columbia Counties

With offices in Gainesville and Lake City, Florida, All About Women, M.D. provides expert OB/GYN services covering the entire range of women's healthcare needs. Our OB/GYN physicians and nurse midwives provide expert care during pregnancy as well as state of the art in-office treatments for gynecologic disorders including Novasure endometrial ablation to treat/stop heavy menstrual bleeding.

Personalized & Expert Prenatal Care

Gainesville obstetricians at All About Women, M.D. help ensure pregnancy goes as smoothly as possible by offering the best prenatal care available. And for those having difficulty getting pregnant, AAW obstetricians and gynecologists offer couples the best infertility help and treatment available.

Advanced Minimally Invasive Surgery: daVinci Surgical System

Clinic founder Dr. Anthony Agrios, Board Certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist also specializes in the daVinci Robotic surgery system, a minimally invasive option commonly used for a hysterectomy and other procedures. Instead of creating several small incisions like traditional surgical methods, OB/GYN surgeons simply open one incision with the daVinci system to complete the procedure. Not only do patients experience less pain and blood loss, they recover and get back to normal much faster.

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All About Women
Gainesville and Lake City, Florida Obstetrics & Gynecology

Offices conveniently located in the heart of North Florida (Alachua County & Columbia County). Serving women of all ages and backgrounds
in and around Ocala, Williston, Chiefland, Perry, Live Oak, Lake City, Starke, Palatka and Gainesville.