Salpingitis is a sub-type of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), the infection and inflammation of the female reproductive organs. When PID affects the fallopian tubes, a woman may receive a diagnosis of salpingitis. Each of the four-inch fallopian tubes carries eggs from the ovaries to the uterus. It is important for women to know and recognize the signs of salpingitis because untreated, it can cause serious complications.
Some women with salpingitis will not experience any symptoms. Noticeable signs, they may come on suddenly and severely or be mild and chronic. Sometimes, symptoms will disappear for some time, but the person will still require treatment. Common symptoms include an abnormal, yellowish discharge which may be foul-smelling. The woman may experience pain in her lower abdomen and back, which could worsen during sexual intercourse or around the time of ovulation. Her menstrual periods may also be more painful than usual. She may notice bleeding or spotting in between her periods. Salpingitis can also sometimes cause nausea and vomiting, a frequent urge to urinate, and a fever.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as gonorrhea and chlamydia are the most common causes of salpingitis. For this reason, it's unusual for salpingitis to occur in women who have never been sexually active or who have never been infected with an STI. In rare cases, salpingitis may have a cause that is not an STI. The condition can also rarely develop due to an infection following gynecological surgery, IUD insertion, pregnancy termination, miscarriage, or childbirth.
Any woman with symptoms of salpingitis should seek immediate medical care to avoid complications. The doctor will ask for a medical history and may perform an abdominal and pelvic exam to check for pain and inflammation. She may take blood tests to identify signs of infection and swabs from the vagina and cervix to determine the type of infection. A transabdominal or transvaginal scan can examine the fallopian tubes, and the doctor may also order a hysterosalpingogram x-ray. The latter involves introducing an iodine-based dye into the reproductive tract through the cervix to check for any blockages of the fallopian tubes.
In some cases, a doctor may recommend a diagnostic laparoscopy to help diagnose salpingitis. During this procedure, a surgeon inserts instruments through small incisions in the abdominal wall to examine the fallopian tubes and other reproductive organs. This is generally an outpatient surgery, and most women will be able to go home the same day as long as they are recovering well.
Untreated salpingitis can lead to serious complications. The infection may spread to the other fallopian tube or other organs of the reproductive system. The woman may also develop lasting pelvic pain or discomfort. Salpingitis can cause scarring, adhesions, and blockages within the fallopian tubes over time. This increases the likelihood of an ectopic pregnancy, where an embryo implants and grows outside the uterus, often in the fallopian tubes. Abscesses can also develop in the fallopian tubes as the result of untreated salpingitis.
A doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection causing salpingitis. These may be oral or intravenous. If an STD was the cause of the infection, the woman should inform past and current sexual partners to ensure they receive treatment; if current partners have an infection, the woman may contract salpingitis again.
If complications develop, women with salpingitis may require surgical treatment, which is usually laparoscopic. The surgeon will drain any abscesses on the fallopian tubes, or the tubes themselves if they have filled with fluid. If there is scarring or adhesions on the fallopian tubes, the surgeon will remove or correct these. Ongoing pelvic pain and the desire to become pregnant in the future are the main reasons a doctor will suggest surgery.
Early treatment of salpingitis will usually prevent adverse effects on fertility. However, complications such as adhesions or scarring can obstruct the fallopian tubes and cause infertility. Sometimes, surgery can correct these obstructions and restore normal fertility, but this may not be possible if the damage is severe. In these cases, the woman may require in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment to become pregnant.
STIs are the biggest risk factors for developing salpingitis. These types of infections are more likely to occur if a woman has multiple sexual partners or has had unprotected sex with one or more new partners. If a woman has a sexual partner who has multiple sexual partners themselves, this also places her at a higher risk.
The most effective way to prevent salpingitis is to avoid contracting the STIs that cause the condition. Using a barrier method of contraception such as condoms will help prevent these infections from spreading from person to person. Regular testing for STIs can also help to diagnose infections early. When a woman tests positive for an STI, prompt treatment can prevent the development of salpingitis.
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