Salpingitis is the inflammation of the fallopian tube or tubes, and is associated with pelvic inflammatory disease. It’s commonly caused by a sexually transmitted bacterial infection, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. Up to 1 out of every 5 of cases of chlamydia or gonorrhea can progress to salpingitis if left untreated.
Besides chlamydia and gonorrhea, other infections that can cause salpingitis 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 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 an acute attack. It typically lasts longer but produces less symptoms.
Risk Factors for Salpingitis
Women can develop inflammation of the fallopian tubes following a miscarriage or childbirth, or any number of medical procedures, such as a biopsy, insertion of an IUD, or an abortion. However, the most common cause is a sexually-transmitted infection.
Therefore, young women and women who have multiple 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.
Often, cases of salpingitis are asymptomatic. They may be caught during a regular pelvic exam. When symptoms do appear, they typically begin after your period, and can include:
- Pelvic pain, especially during ovulation and menstruation
- Changes in the color or smell of vaginal discharge
- Lower back pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Painful intercourse
Complications of Salpingitis
In the long-term, salpingitis can cause serious health problems:
Chronic pelvic pain
The bacteria could spread to the ovaries or other pelvic organs.
The infection causing salpingitis could be transmitted to your sexual partner(s).
These are pus-filled pockets that can develop on the fallopian tube or ovary during salpingitis. They can be identified during a pelvic exam or ultrasound, or during a laparoscopy. They can be treated with antibiotics, 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.
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.
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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