STDs and Tubo-ovarian Abscesses


Maj Patel
When bacteria from a sexually transmitted disease, or STD, move upward from a woman’s vagina or cervix into her uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries, the result is a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID. One of the major complications of PID is a tubo-ovarian abscess. Major Spencer, can you tell us more about STDs, PID, and tubo-ovarian abscess?

Maj Spencer
I sure can, Dr. Patel. A number of different STDs can lead to PID, but the two most common are chlamydia and gonorrhea, which account for between one third and one half of all PID cases.

Symptoms of PID can range from mild to severe. Some of the more common symptoms include:

  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Mild pelvic pain
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Irregular menstrual bleeding
  • Fever
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Painful and frequent urination
  • Tenderness in the abdominal or pelvic area, and
  • Inflammation

Many of these symptoms can also result from other conditions. It’s important to let your provider know if you experience any of these symptoms in order to get a correct diagnosis and treatment. PID is generally treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics. Occasionally, admission to the hospital is required. Although antibiotic treatment can cure PID, it cannot reverse any scarring already caused by the infection.

Because symptoms of PID can be mild or subtle, they may actually go unnoticed. If PID goes undiagnosed and untreated, it can lead to other complications, including scarring of reproductive organs, infertility, chronic pelvic pain, or ectopic pregnancy.

Tubo-ovarian abscess, or TOA, is another serious complication of PID. A TOA is a collection of bacteria, pus, and fluid that builds up in the fallopian tube or ovary. A TOA can cause fever and pain that makes it difficult to walk.

Like PID, a TOA is usually treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics and may also include a drainage procedure. Admission to the hospital is often required. Patients who fail to respond to antibiotics may need surgery to remove the abscess. If a TOA is not treated, it risks rupturing, which is a life-threatening emergency. A ruptured TOA can result in sepsis, a condition that can cause one or more organs to fail quickly, which can lead to death.

Although it’s not common for PID to progress to this point, you should notify your provider right away if you experience any symptoms. Correct diagnosis and treatment could save your life.