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Although UTIs and PIDs cause pain in the pelvic region and have some symptoms in common, they are generally caused by different bacteria.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, or PID, is inflammation found in the reproductive organs of women. It can lead to more painful and difficult to deal with conditions such as scar formations that have fibrous band stretching between tissues and organs. PID can affect any reproductive organ; namely the uterus, the womb, the fallopian tubes, or the ovaries. Sometimes, PID can be present in more than one of these places.

In comparison, a urinary tract infection, or UTI, is a bacterial infection in the urinary tract which consists of the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys.

A closer look at PID

Most often PID is the result of an untreated infection in the vagina or cervix. Approximately eight hundred thousand females will suffer from PID each calendar year. The culprits that usually account for these infections are chlamydia and gonorrhea; common STIs. Ten to 15 percent of women who have an STI will suffer from pelvic inflammatory disease. It is also true that PID can be caused by other bacterial infections, fungal infections, and parasitic infections.  

The infection starts out in the vagina, travels to the cervix, then spreads deeper to the fallopian tubes and ovaries.

An acute case lasts about thirty days. If the infection hangs on longer than that it is referred to as chronic.

Urinary tract infections, however, are caused by E. coli 90 percent of the time. Though a UTI can be caused by an STI, it is not nearly as likely.

Symptoms of PID verses UTI

Although a few symptoms can be common between pelvic inflammatory disease and a urinary tract infection, most of them are quite different. They both cause inflammation and pain in the pelvic region, frequent urination, and sometimes fever. But, then, the symptoms begin to vary and are not the same at all.

PID symptoms include:

  • Bleeding or spotting between menstrual cycles
  • Pain in the lower back or rectal area
  • Extreme pain during sexual encounters
  • Vaginal discharge

UTI symptoms are very different. They generally consist of:

  • Burning or pain during urination
  • Strong smelling urine
  • Cloudy, white, or discolored urine
  • Frequent need to go to the bathroom, but with little results
  • Incontinence

UTI vs PID: Complications compared

The complications of an untreated urinary tract infections include pyelonephritis (a sudden, severe kidney infection), dehydration, kidney disease or permanent kidney damage, sepsis, septicemia (bacteria in the bloodstream), and premature labor resulting in a low birth weight in newborns.

Complications in PID can include ectopic pregnancy due to scarring, chronic pelvic pain, and infertility. Studies show that one out of eight women who have suffered from pelvic inflammatory disease will have a difficult time getting pregnant. Untreated PID can lead to severe scarring in the female reproductive system, or abscesses.

Risk factors for urinary tract infections vs pelvic inflammatory disease

There are some similarities in risk factors when comparing PID and UTIs. Most notably the risks involved with sexual activity. Bacteria can be passed along through sexual encounters, especially unprotected sex. Having sex with multiple partners, not using barrier type contraception (condoms, cervical caps, etc.), and poor sexual hygiene (both partners need to wash their genitals before and after sex or between switching from anus to vagina).

Other UTI risks include dehydration (six to eight glasses of water required each day to remain hydrated), the use of catheters, menopause, blockages (kidney stones), diabetes, pregnancy, a suppressed immune system, poor hygiene, and urinary tract procedures. The largest risk for UTIs is the female anatomy. A woman’s urethra is situated very close to the anus where E. coli is common. A female’s urethra is also much shorter than a man’s, making the traveling distance to her bladder much shorter for bacteria.

Those at risk for PID are usually between 15 and 25, a time when they are more sexually active and are more likely to have multiple sexual partners. A woman is at greater risk for PID if she has recently given birth, miscarried a child, or had an abortion. Other risks include endometrial biopsies, appendicitis, and the use of an IUD.

Urinary tract infections are not listed as a risk factor. Though suffering from chronic or recurring UTIs may seem like a way to get PID, the chances of that occurring are doubtful. However, an STI may cause a woman to suffer from both issues.

Diagnosis of UTI or PID

A UTI is generally diagnosed through a urinalysis, the process of urinating in a cup and having a dipstick test to check for pus and bacteria. This is followed by a culture test. Bacteria is allowed to grow in a laboratory to determine the type of bacteria responsible. Once the type of bacteria is determined an appropriate antibiotic will be prescribed. Treatment will last from three to 14 days, depending on the severity of the UTI and whether it has reached the kidneys.

Making a diagnosis of PID is more complicated. There should be a pelvic exam, a test for STIs, a swab of the cervix and urethra, blood and urine tests, an ultrasound, and a laparoscopy with tissue samples taken. Once PID is diagnosed it can often be eradicated with antibiotics taken for fourteen days. Sometimes, there is more than one kind of bacteria at fault. If that is the case, two antibiotics may be taken simultaneously.

A hospital stay is only called for if the woman suffering from PID is pregnant or her symptoms escalate to severe. Then, the antibiotics will be administered intravenously.

Surgery is required if there is extensive scarring of the fallopian tubes or an abscess that needs to be drained immediately.


A urinary tract infection can be prevented by:

  • Completely emptying the bladder often
  • Wiping from front to back
  • Urinating immediately after sex
  • Washing the genital area before and after sex
  • Drinking enough water to flush out bacteria before it has a chance to settle in and multiply

To prevent PID:

  • Have regular screenings for STIs
  • Be sure that any sexual partner has been tested recently for STIs
  • Don’t use douches
  • Use a condom or cervical cap
  • Don’t engage in sexual activity too soon after childbirth, a miscarriage, or an abortion


Although UTIs and PIDs cause pain in the pelvic region and have some symptoms in common, they are generally caused by different bacteria. A woman may suffer from both at the same time, especially when they are caused by an STI (sexually transmitted infection). However, a UTI is not listed among the risk factors for pelvic inflammatory disease. Anything is possible, but it is doubtful that PID is caused by chronic or recurring UTIs.

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