Unrecognized Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) has become so common that one in every seven women in the United States will be treated for the condition during her lifetime. Every year, over a million women develop PID. But it gets worse: out of every four women who develop PID, one will have a complication such as infertility, chronic abdominal pain, or even an abnormal pregnancy.

Grim Picture

These statistics paint a grim picture but may not tell the whole story. Experts believe that there are many women who have undiagnosed PID and this would mean that many more than one in seven women have the condition. The tragedy of this situation is that many women are only diagnosed with PID when they go for infertility testing. The disease has rendered them infertile because it went undetected and untreated for too long. That's too bad, because the disease is easy to treat and easier to prevent.

PID is a general term describing infections that attack the upper part of the female reproductive organs, for instance the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. Sometimes there just aren't many noticeable symptoms in PID, and so the situation drags on, causing damage to the reproductive organs. The disease can be caused by a wide variety of organisms including those that are sexually transmitted, though this is not always the case.

Up to 40% of all women who get chlamydia or gonorrhea and fail to receive proper treatment will develop PID. Women can also develop the condition after any surgical procedure that involves opening the cervix or the abdomen, which allows bacteria to enter the area where reproductive organs are located. The consequences can be deadly. Every year, around 250,000 United States women are hospitalized due to PID. Over 150 of them will die.

Devastating Effects

But the long-term effects of PID are devastating, too. Permanent damage to the fallopian tubes that causes infertility occurs in 12% of all women suffering PID for the first time. Once a woman has three episodes of infection, her infertility rate climbs to 50%. Even where fertility is preserved, damage to the fallopian tubes predisposes a woman to ectopic pregnancy in which the fertilized egg remains stuck in the tube and begins to grow there. If the pregnancy isn't found and carefully terminated, the tube can burst, bringing dire consequences to a woman's health.

Risk factors for PID include:

*Age—women younger than 25 years old are more vulnerable

*Multiple sex partners

*Loss of virginity at an early age

*Past history for STD

*Past history for PID

*Douching many times a month

*The use of an IUD

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