In the female reproductive system, a vital part is the fallopian tubes, which connect the ovaries to the uterus. Damage to these delicate structures may increase risk of tubal pregnancy and compromise fertility. One of the ways such damage can occur is if the fallopian tubes (both or just a single one) become inflamed due to bacterial infection, in a condition known as salpingitis.
There are a few causes of salpingitis. It may occasionally occur after women have an IUD placement or after childbirth if exposure to contaminants occur. More commonly the cause is infection with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) of a bacterial nature. These could include common STDs like gonorrhea and chlamydia. The condition can pose great risk to future fertility and needs prompt treatment.
Most women are unlikely to ignore the symptoms of salpingitis. These include spotting between periods, pain during intercourse, and strong stomach, low back, and pelvic pain. The inflammation may press on the bladder resulting in the need to urinate frequently. Other symptoms may include nausea and/or vomiting, tiredness and a flulike feeling.
Typically salpingitis is diagnosed by testing for bacterial infection and by performing a gynecological exam. In some instances doctors may also want to perform laparoscopy, though this is not always the case. Usually laparoscopy is only indicated if a doctor feels that other conditions might be causing the pain. In most cases, doctors will do cultures of the vagina, cervix or uterus to identify bacteria causing the condition so that antibiotics chosen to treat infection are specific.
When salpingitis is caught early, chances are good that antibiotic treatment can quickly cure the infection and leave no damage. If the condition persists, is ignored, or is not treated, problems can develop. These can include scarring in the fallopian tubes, or development of abscesses that can damage the tubes and cause scarring. If abscesses are present and are large, doctors may need to opt for more aggressive treatment by doing things like draining them.
During treatment patients are usually asked to refrain from sex, since this could complicate treatment and cause infection to persist. It’s also important for sexual partners to be tested, since they may be carrying an STD. Both partners need to be given a clean bill of health before sexual activity resumes.
Under some circumstances, salpingitis resists treatment, and antibiotics do not appear to cure it. Though rare, and a circumstance to be avoided if at all possible, sometimes fallopian tubes, ovaries, and/or uterus might need to be removed. This can be extremely serious in all cases, but is most difficult for those people who have not yet had children. The best way to avoid this outcome is to get treatment when symptoms are noticed.