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Category: Gynecology

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Pelvic inflammatory disease overview

Published: July 16, 2009. Updated: August 09, 2009

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a generic term for infection of the female uterus, fallopian tubes, and/or ovaries. PID is a common result of infection with sexually transmitted diseases, especially gonorrhea and chlamydia infections. PID does not always result from infection with sexually transmitted diseases. Other bacteria or germs also can cause PID. If an infection in the genital tract does not get treated right away, it can cause PID. The infection spreads from the cervix into the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. It can take anywhere from several days to several months after being infected to develop PID.

What can cause an infection to spread into the upper genital tract?

  • Using an IUD (intrauterine device)
  • Bacteria (germs)
  • Douching. Women who douche once or twice a month are more likely to have PID than those who douche less than once a month. Douching also may ease symptoms of an infection, thus causing a delay in seeking effective treatment.

In the United States, more than one million women are affected by PID each year, and the rate is highest among teenagers. Approximately 50,000 women become infertile in the US each year from PID


The most common symptoms of PID are pain in the lower abdomen and abnormal vaginal discharge. Other symptoms that may sometimes be noticed include fever, painful intercourse, or irregular menstrual bleeding. It is important to note that PID can occur and cause serious harm without causing any noticeable symptoms.

PID can cause scarring inside the reproductive organs, which can later cause serious complications, including chronic pelvic pain, infertility (difficulty becoming pregnant), ectopic pregnancy (a potentially fatal condition where the embryo grows outside the uterus), and other dangerous complications of pregnancy.


Although the PID infection itself may be cured, effects of the infection may be permanent.

Prevention methods include:

  • Protect against sexually transmitted diseases through abstinence or barrier methods such as condoms
  • Going to the doctor immediately if symptoms of PID, sexually transmitted diseases appear, or after learning that a current or former sex partner has, or might have had a sexually transmitted disease
  • Getting regular gynecological (pelvic) exams to screen for symptomless PID

Previous: Ovarian cysts Next: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

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