Chlamydia, a sexually transmitted vaginal infection, is the most frequently reported infectious disease in the U.S. However, 75 percent of women have no symptoms and may not seek care. Left untreated, 40 percent of women will develop Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) and many of these women will become infertile.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is the most common and serious complication of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), aside from Human Immunodeficiency Virus/ Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS). Left untreated, PID can cause infertility (inability to conceive a child/get pregnant).
PID is caused by bacteria, often the same type responsible for several sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia.
PID can affect the uterus, fallopian tubes and/or the ovaries, and can lead to pelvic adhesions and scar tissue that develop between internal organs, causing ongoing pelvic pain and the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy (the fertilized egg becomes implanted outside the uterus). If PID is not diagnosed early enough, peritonitis (an infection of the membrane that lines your abdominal cavity) and inflammation of the walls of the abdominal and pelvic cavity may develop.
Although women of any age can develop PID, sexually active women under age 25, and those of childbearing age are at the greatest risk of acquiring the disease. Women who use IUDs are also at an increased risk.
Each individual may experience symptoms differently, but the following are the most common symptoms:
- Diffuse pain and tenderness in the abdomen
- Pelvic pain
- Increased foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- Fever and chills
- Vomiting and nausea
- Pain during urination or during sexual intercourse
Symptoms may be mild enough that the condition may go undiagnosed, or symptoms may resemble other conditions or medical problems. So, it is important to consult your physician for a diagnosis.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical and pelvic examination, diagnostic procedures for PID may include the following:
- Microscopic examination of cell or tissue samples from the vagina and cervix
- Blood tests
- Pap test
- Laparoscopy: A minor surgical procedure in which a laparoscope, a thin tube with a lens and a light, is inserted into an incision in the abdominal wall. Using the laparoscope to see into the pelvic area, the physician can determine the locations, extent and size of endometrial growths.
- Culdocentesis: A procedure in which a needle is inserted into the pelvic cavity through the vaginal wall to obtain a sample of pus.
Treatment for PID usually includes oral antibiotics, particularly if there is evidence of gonorrhea or chlamydia. In cases of severe infection, hospitalization may be required to administer intravenous antibiotics. Occasionally, surgery is necessary.
AIDS is caused by HIV, which kills or impairs cells of the immune system. It progressively destroys the body's ability to fight infections and certain cancers.
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 1.3 million people are currently living with HIV in the United States, with a fifth unaware they are infected.
HIV/AIDS is transmitted through the following methods:
- Sexual contact
- Blood contamination
- Mother to infant: HIV also can be spread to babies born to, or breastfed by, mothers infected with the virus.
Contrary to common misconception, HIV/AIDS cannot be spread through the following methods:
- Casual contact; i.e., sharing food utensils, towels or bedding
- Swimming pools
- Toilet seats
- Biting insects (such as mosquitoes)
Some people may develop a flu-like illness within a month or two after exposure to the HIV virus. However, many people do not develop any symptoms at all when they are first infected. In addition, the symptoms that do appear usually disappear within a week to a month and are often mistaken for the symptoms of another viral infection. Symptoms might include:
- Malaise (fatigue)
- Enlarged lymph nodes (glands located in the neck, groin, armpit and other areas)
Persistent or severe symptoms may not surface for 10 years or more after HIV has initially first entered the body in adults, or within 2 years in children born with an HIV infection. During the asymptomatic period, HIV is actively infecting and killing cells of the immune system. Its most obvious effect is a decline in the blood levels of the T4 cells which are the immune system's key infection fighters. The virus initially disables or destroys these cells without causing any symptoms.
As the immune system deteriorates complications begin to surface. Each individual may experience symptoms differently, but the most common complications or symptoms of AIDS may include:
- Lymph nodes that remain enlarged for more than three months
- Lack of energy
- Weight loss
- Frequent fevers and sweats
- Persistent or frequent yeast infections (oral or vaginal)
- Persistent skin rashes or flaky skin
- Pelvic inflammatory disease that does not respond to treatment
- Short-term memory loss
- One or more infections (opportunistic infections) related to having a diminished immune system, such as tuberculosis and certain types of pneumonia
Some people develop frequent and severe herpes infections that cause mouth, genital or anal sores, or the painful nerve disease known as shingles. Children may experience delayed development.
The symptoms of an HIV infection may resemble other medical conditions, so it is very important to talk with your doctor for a diagnosis.
Early HIV infection often causes no symptoms, and must be detected by testing the blood for the presence of antibodies against HIV. These HIV antibodies generally do not reach levels high enough to detect by standard blood tests until 1 to 3 months following infection, and may take as long as 6 months. People exposed to HIV should be tested for HIV infection as soon as they are likely to develop antibodies to the virus.
When a person is highly likely to be infected with HIV and yet antibody tests are negative, a test for the presence of HIV itself in the blood is used. Your doctor will often recommend repeat antibody testing at a later date when antibodies to HIV are more likely to have developed.
As with many other conditions, early detection offers more options for treatment. Today, there are medical treatments that can slow down the rate at which HIV weakens the immune system, but currently there is no cure for the disease.
However, there are other treatments that can prevent or cure the conditions associated with AIDS. Consult your doctor for more information regarding various available drug therapies.
For more information on any of these conditions or to schedule an evaluation, click or call (800) 237-8662.