One of the potentially most damaging of conditions that can result from a sexually transmitted disease (STD) is that of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
PID is a bacterial infectious disease that affects the female reproductive organs, including the ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, and other tissues. It most often develops as a complication of chlamydia, gonorrhea or other STD, though it can also occur following giving birth, a miscarriage, or an abortion. It most often strikes sexually active women between the ages of 15 and 25.
PID symptoms can be slow to develop; in some cases significant damage is done before the patient even knows she is infected. When symptoms do appear, they can range from mild to severe, including abdominal and pelvic pain, low back pain, pain during intercourse or urination, menstrual irregularities, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, or vomiting.
PID is fully curable with antibiotics. The problem is if it is not caught early enough. Any damage done to the reproductive system by the condition is irreversible.
An estimated 750,000 women per year develop PID in the United States alone. Approximately 10% of these suffer sufficient damage as to become permanently infertile.
This damage is caused by the bacteria gradually turning normal tissue into scar tissue. As scar tissue builds up, it can hinder the normal movement of eggs into the uterus. If the fallopian tubes are totally blocked by scar tissue, sperm cannot reach an egg to fertilize it, and so pregnancy cannot occur. Thus the woman has been rendered infertile.
A related complication is that pregnancy can occur but be abnormal. If instead of being prevented from being fertilized, an egg gets stuck in the scar tissue of a damaged fallopian tube after fertilization, it is possible for it to develop and grow there, as if it were in the uterus. This is a highly dangerous condition called an ectopic pregnancy, which can rupture the fallopian tube, causing internal bleeding and in some cases death.
Even when PID is caught and treated fairly early, it may have done a small amount of damage. A person who suffers from PID multiple times can accumulate small amounts of damage like that until the consequences are comparable to one such infection that is not caught until too late-infertility, ectopic pregnancy, or chronic pelvic pain.
Any woman with a bacterial STD, or with any of the symptoms of PID, should seek medical attention immediately and be tested and treated for PID if necessary. Time is very much of the essence.
“Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.” Shared Journey: Your Path to Fertility.
“Pelvic Inflammatory Disease-CDC Fact Sheet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID).” Mayo Clinic.