Definition - What does Salpingitis mean?

Salpingitis is an inflammation of the fallopian tubes that frequently occurs in combination with oophoritis (an inflammation of the ovaries). It is one of the several forms of pelvic inflammatory diseases (PID), and is, in fact, the most common form of PID. Salpingitis is caused by a bacterial infection. These bacteria usually gain entry into the tubes during sexual activity via ascending from the vagina into the uterus and finally into the tubes. However, the fallopian tubes can occasionally be inflamed secondary to infections that are not related to sexual activity. Salpingitis affects nearly 1-2% of sexually active young women in a year and is one of the leading causes of infertility.

FertilitySmarts explains Salpingitis

Risk factors related to salpingitis include:

  • Bacteria introduced after the insertion of an intrauterine device
  • Bacteria introduced through douching
  • Bacteria introduced during childbirth
  • Bacteria introduced following a D&C
  • Practicing unprotected sexual intercourse

In acute salpingitis, the fallopian tube becomes red and swollen and exudes excess fluid. As a result, the walls of the tube can adhere to one another (i.e. develops adhesions). Since the tubes are the sites of fertilization, long-standing salpingitis that blocks the tubes can result in infertility. These women are also at risk for ectopic pregnancy, which further adds to the problem of infertility. Moreover, the secretion of excess fluid and adhesions can cause the formation of pus in the ovaries and tubes called a pyosalpinx. This tubo-ovarian abscess (TOA) also promotes the blockage of the tubes.

The fallopian tube may also stick to the structures in close proximity such as the intestines. In severe cases, the inflamed fallopian tube ruptures leading to a life-threatening infection of the abdominal cavity.

Symptoms of acute salpingitis may include:

  • Severe lower abdominal pain
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding during menstrual cycle
  • High fever and chills
  • Vomiting
  • Abnormal and foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Chronic pelvic pain (usually in women with long-standing salpingitis)

Chronic salpingitis is long-standing, milder, and may not cause noticeable symptoms.

In women presenting with the above signs and symptoms, the doctor performs abdominal and pelvic examinations and a transvaginal ultrasound. The definitive diagnosis of salpingitis, however, requires a laparoscopy. Salpingitis is treated with antibiotics. Complications like TOA and peritonitis may require surgical intervention.

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