Pelvic inflammatory disease
Diagnosis of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
There isn’t a specific test for PID. Instead, your doctor will make a PID diagnosis based on your symptoms, the presence of a bacterial infection, and a physical exam. Your doctor will begin by asking you questions about your symptoms, your medical and sexual history, and your personal hygiene habits.
Your doctor will then perform a pelvic exam to feel for any swelling and to identify areas that are painful and tender. Blood and urine tests will be ordered to test for a variety of things, such as STIs and pregnancy. Finally, an ultrasound may be used to get a visual image of the reproductive system.
If your doctor needs a clearer picture of what’s going on, they may order further tests. One is a laparoscopy, which involves inserting a lighted camera into an incision in your abdomen to get a close look at your reproductive organs. At this time, your doctor might also insert a tube into your uterus to take a sample of your endometrial tissue (called an endometrial biopsy) in order to test for infection.
Our healthcare providers focus their treatment efforts on maintaining your reproductive health and fertility. You want to be sure you get PID treatment as soon as possible, so the infection doesn’t become severe.
Gynecologists typically prescribe antibiotics to treat PID, with the aim of destroying the bacteria that cause the pelvic infection. If PID is caught early, antibiotic treatment may clear up the infection before it causes any lasting damage to your reproductive system.
Keep in mind that antibiotics cannot cure damage that has already occurred. If you develop an internal abscess (a pus-filled pocket) from PID, your doctor may need to perform surgery. However, most women with PID will not need surgery.
It is also essential to keep in mind that if the infection is the result of an STI, you need to be treated for the STI itself as well.
If you experience pelvic pain or other PID symptoms, schedule an appointment as soon as possible to get started with treatment.
When you are going to see your doctor, you want to be prepared to discuss your symptoms and your medical and sexual history. While it may be embarrassing to discuss your sexual activity, you must be completely honest with your doctor so you can get the fastest diagnosis and best treatment possible.
It’s best to schedule your appointment when you are not menstruating, if possible, because your doctor will perform a pelvic exam. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You can come prepared with a list of them and ask any additional questions that come up during the appointment.
If you need other tests, such as an ultrasound or laparoscopy, they will be scheduled separately. If it is an ultrasound or other imaging, there is no preparation required. If it is a laparoscopy, there are a few things you should do to prepare, including:
- Avoiding eating, drinking, and smoking the night before
- Wearing loose-fitting clothing
- Wearing low heels to the appointment
- Avoiding wearing jewelry
- Removing any nail polish you might be wearing
- Ensuring you have someone to drive you home
In most cases, there is no preparation required for the treatment of PID. If you require surgery for a ruptured abscess or one that is about to rupture, you will have a care team supporting you. You will be able to ask them questions and find out everything you need to know about the procedure. They will instruct you on what to do before surgery, how to prepare for it, and what to expect afterward.
Full recovery is possible in most cases of PID, particularly if caught early. A course of antibiotics should clear it up within 10 to 14 days.
If damage is caused by scarring and abscesses, full healing may not be possible. If you do require surgery, it can take up to six weeks to heal, and you may have lasting damage.
It is also important to bear in mind that if your PID is successfully treated, you can be infected again. If the cause was through sexual contact, your sexual partner will need to be treated before you can safely engage in sexual intercourse again.
If a PID is left untreated for too long, the result can be the development of scar tissue throughout the reproductive system as well as abscesses that most commonly form in the fallopian tube. This can cause permanent damage that can result in:
- Chronic pelvic pain – The scarring and other damage can result in ongoing pain that can last for months or even years.
- Ectopic pregnancy – Damage to the fallopian tubes that causes the fertilized egg to implant outside the uterus, often within the fallopian tube itself.
- Infertility – Damage to the reproductive organs that can result in the inability to become pregnant.
Dignity Health provides personalized, compassionate care for women’s reproductive health conditions, including pelvic inflammatory disease.
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.