Having pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can feel like a constant, gnawing pain deep within your pelvis, sometimes escalating to severe discomfort, especially during intimate moments. Regardless of the intensity of symptoms you experience, the condition is serious and demands immediate attention. If not promptly addressed, PID can lead to long-term issues such as chronic pelvic pain, fertility challenges, and an elevated risk of ectopic pregnancies. Additionally, even after successful treatment, the disease may recur. It's especially concerning that PID is most prevalent among younger women, particularly those between the ages of 15 and 25.
In this article, we will discuss how regular lab testing is an important part of managing PID effectively. From pinpointing the specific bacteria causing the condition to understanding the underlying factors contributing to its recurrence, bi-annual tests can offer crucial insights. We will go over the key lab tests to conduct, such as STD Panels, CRP for inflammation, Micronutrient Testing, and Stress Testing, and explain how these tests can empower both healthcare providers and patients in treating and monitoring this condition.
What is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?
Pelvic inflammatory disease, commonly known as PID, is a serious infection and inflammation affecting the female pelvic area. The range of symptoms can vary, sometimes presenting as almost unnoticeable to causing severe pain, especially during sexual intercourse. Regardless of symptom intensity, PID should be taken seriously due to its potential complications (1).
The infection typically originates in the lower genital tract, encompassing the vagina and cervix, and ascends to affect the upper genital structures, such as the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. If left untreated, PID can extend its inflammatory effects beyond these structures and even reach organs like the liver in rare instances. Long-term neglect of treatment can result in tissue scarring, leading to chronic pelvic pain, difficulties in conceiving, infertility, and increased risk for ectopic pregnancy, where a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus (1,2).
The primary agents responsible for PID are the sexually transmitted bacteria chlamydia and gonorrhea. It's worth noting that in nearly half of the PID cases, multiple types of organisms are implicated (1,2).
What Causes Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?
The primary cause of PID is an infection that ascends through the female reproductive system. The most common pathogens responsible for PID are sexually transmitted bacteria, specifically Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. These bacteria initiate an infection that starts in the lower genital tract, including the vagina and cervix, and then moves upwards to affect the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries (1,2).
Emerging organisms like Mycoplasma genitalium are also now recognized as causing PID and may be associated with milder symptoms. Other bacteria, including Gardnerella vaginalis, Haemophilus influenza, and species of Bacteroids and Peptococcus, have also been identified as potential causative agents. In less frequent instances, PID can result from normal vaginal bacteria being introduced into the upper genital tract through events such as childbirth, miscarriage, abortion, pelvic surgery, or the insertion of an intrauterine device (IUD) (1,2).
Nutritional factors may contribute to susceptibility. Specifically, diets low in certain micronutrients or high in high-glycemic carbohydrates have been shown to possibly weaken the vaginal microbiome, making it more prone to infections that could lead to PID (2).
Lastly, although sexually transmitted bacteria account for the majority of cases, other microbes, like those responsible for bacterial vaginosis, as well as certain respiratory and enteric pathogens, can cause PID. These include bacteria such as Peptostreptococcus, Bacteroides, Haemophilus influenza, Streptococcus pneumonia, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Bacteroides fragilis, and group B Streptococci (1,2).
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Symptoms
- Pelvic or lower abdominal pain: This is often the hallmark symptom and usually prompts empiric treatment. The pain generally lasts less than seven days.
- Tenderness during a pelvic exam: Specifically, tenderness can be noted with cervical motion, uterine touch, or adnexal (ovary) examination.
- Fever: Especially when the oral temperature rises above 101 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cervical or vaginal discharge: The discharge may be yellow or green, have an unpleasant odor, and is usually indicative of an infection.
- Nausea or vomiting: These symptoms may accompany the pelvic or abdominal pain.
- Pain during sex: This is often described as being felt deep within the pelvis.
- Irregular periods: Unusual bleeding patterns, including heavy flow or bleeding between cycles.
- Painful, frequent, or difficult urination: This may be noted as a burning sensation during urination.
- Unusual vaginal bleeding: This can occur during or after sexual intercourse or between menstrual cycles.
Symptoms tend to resolve within 48-72 hours of initiating appropriate treatment. Given the potential for severe long-term complications, empiric treatment is often initiated based on these symptom presentations, particularly in patients at risk for sexually transmitted infections.
What Are The Benefits of Regular Lab Testing For Patients With Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?
Managing PID can be complex due to its tendency to recur, the possibility of incomplete resolution, and the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In this context, regular lab testing becomes a vital component of effective treatment and long-term management. Initial lab tests aim to confirm the complete eradication of the infection, a critical step given the severe long-term complications like chronic pelvic pain and infertility that can occur if bacteria persist (1,2).
For individuals experiencing repeated episodes of PID, additional functional testing can offer further diagnostic insight. For example, it may be beneficial to assess factors influencing the immune system, such as micronutrient status and stress hormone levels. This expanded testing can provide a more comprehensive picture, helping healthcare providers to customize treatment plans that not only tackle the infection but also address underlying vulnerabilities in the patient’s immune system (1,2).
Moreover, routine lab tests serve as an early warning system for recurrence. Given that women who have had one episode of PID are at higher risk for additional episodes, prompt detection via regular testing allows for immediate intervention, reducing the potential for lasting reproductive damage. Additionally, the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria complicates the treatment landscape. Regular lab testing can identify these resistant strains, enabling healthcare providers to adjust treatment regimens accordingly (1,2).
Top Labs To Run Bi-Annually On Patients With Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Managing PID often requires a nuanced approach that includes ongoing surveillance and treatment adjustments. Regular lab testing is especially beneficial in this context.
Given that sexually transmitted bacteria are the primary cause of PID, comprehensive testing for STDs allows for the detection of disease and other co-infections that may occur alongside PID. Regular testing for STDs is especially important in patients who are sexually active or have multiple partners. This panel screens for a range of sexually transmitted infections, allowing for an accurate diagnosis and targeted treatment. Conducting this test bi-annually allows for the early identification of recurrent infections or the emergence of new infections, leading to prompt treatment and minimizing complications (1,2).
The CRP test is highly sensitive and useful for diagnosing and managing PID. Elevated CRP levels are commonly seen in PID cases, making it a reliable marker for the condition. Additionally, CRP levels return to normal more quickly than other markers following effective antibiotic therapy, providing a timely measure of treatment effectiveness. Regular bi-annual CRP testing aids in the early detection of recurrent PID and helps in fine-tuning therapeutic interventions.
This test is highly relevant for assessing the immune system's overall health, which is essential in managing PID. Nutrient deficiencies can weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections like Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, common pathogens causing PID. Regular bi-annual micronutrient testing enables healthcare providers to identify these deficiencies and address them proactively, reducing susceptibility to recurrent episodes.
Stress hormones like cortisol can impact the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections. In the context of PID, managing stress levels becomes an important component of a comprehensive treatment plan. This test provides insights into adrenal function and stress hormone levels. Bi-annual testing allows healthcare providers to monitor how stress might be affecting a patient's vulnerability to PID, offering an opportunity to adjust treatment accordingly.
Additional Labs to Check
Other testing may be indicated depending on the patient's profile, symptoms, and history. These tests may include vaginal and cervical fluid samples, pregnancy testing, transvaginal ultrasound, or laparoscopy.
Managing PID requires a comprehensive approach that benefits greatly from regular lab testing. Bi-annual tests like an STD Panel can detect recurrent infections or new co-infections, allowing for immediate, targeted treatment. CRP tests serve as reliable markers for PID activity and are effective in monitoring treatment outcomes. Additional tests such as Micronutrient Testing and Stress Testing can offer insights into underlying vulnerabilities in the immune system and help in personalizing treatment plans, emphasizing the indispensable role of regular lab testing in PID management.
Lab Tests in This Article
- Jennings, L. K. (2023, March 13). Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499959/
- Neibling, K. (2023, April 28). A Functional Medicine Protocol for Reoccurring Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. Rupa Health. https://www.rupahealth.com/post/a-functional-medicine-protocol-to-reoccurring-pelvic-inflammatory-disease
- Yoshimura, H. (2023, August 4). An Integrative Comprehensive Approach to Pelvic Pain Disorders: Testing, Nutrition, and Supplements. Rupa Health. https://www.rupahealth.com/post/an-integrative-comprehensive-approach-to-pelvic-pain-disorders
- Christie, J. (2023, March 2). The Most Common Causes Of Infertility In Men and Women. Rupa Health. https://www.rupahealth.com/post/a-functional-medicine-approach-to-infertility
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) - Symptoms & causes - Mayo Clinic. (2022, April 30). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pelvic-inflammatory-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20352594#symptoms
- Hemilä, M., Henriksson, L., & Ylikorkala, O. (1987, January 1). Serum CRP in the diagnosis and treatment of pelvic inflammatory disease. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics; Springer Science+Business Media. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf00931315
- Li, M., & McDermott, R. (2015, April 1). Smoking, poor nutrition, and sexually transmitted infections associated with pelvic inflammatory disease in remote North Queensland Indigenous communities, 1998-2005. BMC Women’s Health; BioMed Central. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-015-0188-z
- Stress effects on the body. (2023, March 8). https://www.apa.org. https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body
- Sweetnich, J. (2023, March 20). How to Balance Cortisol Levels Naturally. Rupa Health. https://www.rupahealth.com/post/how-to-balance-cortisol-levels-naturally
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) - Diagnosis & treatment - Mayo Clinic. (2022, April 30). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pelvic-inflammatory-disease/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352600
- Crossman, S. H. (2006, March 1). The Challenge of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. AAFP. https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2006/0301/p859.html
- Website, N. (2023, June 8). Diagnosis. nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pelvic-inflammatory-disease-pid/diagnosis/