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It can be difficult to diagnose PID with certainty. There is no single test used to diagnose the infection. Usually, a diagnosis is made based on a combination of factors: your medical history, your symptoms, a physical exam and the results of various diagnostic tests.

If you have symptoms that might be caused by PID, your doctor will do a physical exam. She or he will check your abdomen for tenderness and do a pelvic exam to find out if there is pelvic tenderness or an abnormal discharge. Your doctor will take vaginal and cervical swabs, to identify the bacteria that may be causing the infection. Because early treatment is important and the consequences of not treating it can be so severe, doctors will usually start treatment right away. A treatment delay of even a day or two can make your condition much more serious. Mild to moderate PID is treated with oral antibiotics. With more severe symptoms, hospital admission for intravenous antibiotics is often necessary.

Blood tests may also be useful to identify PID. A pregnancy test may be done to rule out ectopic pregnancy. Measuring your white blood cell count can help determine if you have an infection. A vaginal ultrasound can also help confirm a diagnosis of PID.

In rare cases, a laparoscopic exam of the pelvic organs may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis. A laparoscope is a tiny camera mounted on a telescope. The doctor inserts the laparoscope through an incision in the belly button, to look for signs of infection. A general anesthetic is used for this operation.

Unfortunately, some cases of PID do not cause symptoms and cannot be detected by the most common tests. One important area of PID research is to devise methods that will detect these “silent cases.”


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