Salpingitis is the inflammation of the fallopian tube or tubes and is associated with pelvic inflammatory disease. It’s commonly caused by sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. Up to 1 out of every 5 of cases of Chlamydia trachomatis or Neisseria gonorrhea can progress to salpingitis if left untreated.
Besides c. trachomatis and n. gonorrhea, other infections that can cause salpingitis to include mycoplasma, staphylococcus, and streptococcus. These microbes may be introduced through contact with an infected person or during a medical procedure, birth, or miscarriage.
Acute and Chronic Salpingitis
Salpingitis can be diagnosed as either acute or chronic. Acute salpingitis is an infection of the fallopian tubes. Acute salpingitis occurs when the fallopian tubes become inflamed and secrete fluid, causing the inside walls to stick to each other and to other nearby tissue. One or both tubes may fill with pus. In rare cases, they could rupture and cause peritonitis, a severe infection of the pelvic cavity.
Chronic salpingitis is a milder form of the inflammation that lingers after acute salpingitis. It typically lasts longer but produces fewer symptoms.
Risk Factors for Salpingitis
Women can develop inflammation of the fallopian tubes following a miscarriage or childbirth, or any number of medical procedures. Salpingitis occurs when the pathogens ascend through the cervix, endometrium and eventually reach the fallopian tubes. The insertion of intrauterine devices, endometrial biopsy, dilation and curettage, hormonal changes by menstruation, and retrograde menstruation all predispose to salpingitis. However, the most common cause is a sexually-transmitted infection.
Therefore, young women and women who have multiple sex partners and/or do not use condoms are at the highest risk of developing an STI. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are very easy to spread through sexual contact, partially because they often present with no symptoms. For this reason, salpingitis is the most common serious infection for women ages 16-25. In fact, it affects around 12% of women before the age of 20.
Symptoms of Salpingitis
Often, cases of salpingitis are asymptomatic. They may be caught during a regular pelvic examination. When symptoms do appear, they typically begin after your period, and can include:
- Pelvic pain, especially during ovulation and menstruation
- Abdominal pain
- Changes in the color or smell of vaginal discharge
- Lower back pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Painful sexual intercourse
Complications of Salpingitis
If left untreated, salpingitis can cause serious health problems:
Chronic pelvic pain
Chronic abdominal pain
The bacteria spread of infection to other areas of the body, including the uterus and ovaries and other pelvic organs.
The infection causing salpingitis could be transmitted to your sexual partner(s).
Tubal scarring, adhesion, and blockages, which may lead to infertility.
These are pus-filled pockets that can develop on the fallopian tube or ovary during salpingitis. They can be identified during a pelvic examination or ultrasound or during a laparoscopy. Most respond to antibiotic treatment, but if they are very large or aren’t responding to antibiotics, they may need to be drained with a special needle guided by ultrasound. In severe cases, the doctor may need to surgically remove the infected fallopian tube or ovary.
Salpingitis can result in scarring of the fallopian tube, making it difficult or impossible for the egg to meet with the sperm.
Risk of Ectopic Pregnancy
Salpingitis increases the likelihood of an ectopic pregnancy – when the fertilized egg implants in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. This condition is life-threatening, and the pregnancy cannot be carried to term.
It’s always important to keep your annual appointments with your gynecologist. Additionally, if you are sexually active and have changed partners since your last STI test, it’s highly recommended that you get another STI check. At times, it may be easy to confuse acute salpingitis with other causes of abdominal pain, such as appendicitis, ectopic pregnancy, kidney infection, ovarian cysts or endometriosis.
If your doctor suspects you have salpingitis, they may conduct one of the following tests to diagnose the condition:
- Pelvic exam
- Blood test
- Mucus swab/bacterial culture
In most cases, salpingitis and its related infectious causes can be treated with antibiotics. This treatment has a success rate of about 85% of cases.
However, in more severe cases, salpingitis may require hospitalization, where antibiotics can be administered intravenously. In rare cases, surgery may be required.
If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of, or suffering from Salpingitis, or have questions about it, please see your doctor.
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