What is salpingitis?

Salpingitis is a type of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID refers to an infection of the reproductive organs. It develops when harmful bacteria enter the reproductive tract. Salpingitis and other forms of PID usually result from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that involve bacteria, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea.

Salpingitis causes inflammation of the fallopian tubes. Inflammation can spread easily from one tube to the other, so both tubes may become affected. If left untreated, salpingitis can result in long-term complications.

Keep reading to learn how to recognize the symptoms, your individual risk, how it’s treated, and more.

What are the symptoms?

Not every woman who gets this condition will experience symptoms.

When symptoms are present, you may experience:

  • foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • yellow vaginal discharge
  • pain during ovulation, menstruation, or sex
  • spotting between periods
  • dull lower back pain
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • frequent urination

This condition can be acute — coming on suddenly with severe symptoms — or chronic — lingering for a long time with little to no symptoms.

Sometimes, symptoms may go away without treatment, giving the false impression that the underlying infection is no longer there. If the infection isn’t treated, it can result in long-term complications.

What causes this condition, and who’s at risk?

Salpingitis is usually caused by bacterial infections acquired via vaginal intercourse.

You may be at an increased risk if you:

  • have had an STI
  • have unprotected sex
  • have multiple sexual partners
  • have one partner who has multiple sexual partners

While rare, abdominal infections or procedures, such as appendicitis or IUD insertion, may cause salpingitis.

How is it diagnosed?

If you’re experiencing symptoms of salpingitis, see your doctor right away to reduce your risk of complications.

After assessing your symptoms and reviewing your medical history, your doctor will perform a physical exam to look for areas of tenderness and swelling.

Your doctor may also perform the following tests to help them make a diagnosis:

  • Blood and urine tests. These tests will look for markers of infection.
  • Swab test of your vagina and cervix. This will determine the type of bacterial infection you may have.
  • Transvaginal or abdominal ultrasound. These imaging tests look at your fallopian tubes and other areas of your reproductive tract.
  • Hysterosalpingogram. This is a special type of X-ray that uses an iodine-based dye injected through the cervix. It helps your doctor look for blockages in your fallopian tubes.

In some cases, your doctor may recommend diagnostic laparoscopy. This minor surgical procedure will allow your doctor to get a full view of your fallopian tubes and other reproductive organs.

If your doctor decides to move forward with this procedure, it’ll be scheduled as a follow-up visit at your local hospital or surgery center. You’ll be able to leave the hospital or surgery center afterward, but arrange for someone to give you a ride home.

What treatment options are available?

Your doctor will prescribe oral or intravenous antibiotics to clear the bacterial infection. Your sexual partners will also require antibiotics. Encourage them to get tested for STIs. If you clear the infection but have intercourse with a partner who hasn’t been treated, the infection will get passed back to you.

If the infection has caused an abscess, your doctor may perform laparoscopic surgery to drain it.

If the infection has caused scars or adhesions to form, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the damaged areas. Your doctor is more likely to recommend surgery if you wish to become pregnant later on.

If your fallopian tubes are filled with fluid, your doctor will perform surgery to drain the fluid or remove the fluid-filled area.

Are complications possible?

If left untreated, salpingitis can result in complications such as:

  • the spread of infection to other areas of the body, including the uterus and ovaries
  • long-term pelvic and abdominal pain
  • tubal scarring, adhesions, and blockages, which can lead to infertility
  • abscesses in the fallopian tubes
  • ectopic pregnancy

Pregnancy and fertility

If diagnosed and treated early, salpingitis shouldn’t have an impact on your fertility. You should be able to conceive and carry a pregnancy to term without complication.

But if treatment is delayed — or if the infection is left untreated entirely — salpingitis can cause blockages, adhesions, or scarring in the fallopian tubes. This can lead to infertility.

If these obstructions can’t be removed surgically, in vitro fertilization (IVF) may be needed for conception.

IVF is a two-part surgical procedure. It eliminates the need for an egg to travel through your fallopian tube into the uterus, where it can be fertilized by sperm. With IVF, your eggs are removed surgically. An egg and sperm are then joined together in a petri dish.

If an embryo results, it’ll be gently inserted through your cervix into your uterus to implant. Still, IVF isn’t foolproof. Success rates vary and are based on many factors, including age and overall health.

Salpingitis can also cause ectopic pregnancy. This happens when a fertilized egg implants outside of your uterus. This type of pregnancy doesn’t result in a healthy birth. Ectopic pregnancies are considered medical emergencies and must be treated.

What’s the outlook?

With early diagnosis and treatment, salpingitis can be successfully cleared through antibiotics. But if left untreated, salpingitis can result in serious long-term complications. This includes tubal abscesses, ectopic pregnancy, and infertility.