Did you know that around 10% of women worldwide are affected by endometritis? Though it is quite common for people to mistake this condition for endometriosis because they both affect the uterus, they are very different. Read on to know more about endometritis, its causes, diagnosis, symptoms, and risk factors.
What is Endometritis?
Not to be mistaken for endometriosis, which is a disorder that occurs when a tissue that is similar to the tissue that forms the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterine cavity, endometritis is an inflammation of the endometrium or the inner lining of the uterus.
This condition is mainly caused by an infection in the uterus and is not life-threatening. However, it is vital to seek treatment for endometritis as soon as it is diagnosed. When left untreated, the condition can lead to infertility, cause some complications with the reproductive organs, and compromise your health.
Symptoms of Endometritis
It is essential to know the symptoms of this condition to know when you should seek medical attention. Symptoms associated with endometritis include:
- Unusual discharge from the vagina or bleeding
- Abdominal and pelvic pain
- Extreme fatigue
- Chills or fever
- Discomfort when going to the toilet
- Pains in the rectal region, pelvis, and abdominal area
Make an appointment with your doctor as soon as you notice any of these symptoms.
What Causes Endometritis?
The leading cause of endometritis is an infection. The infection can be caused by:
- Sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea or chlamydia
- Pelvic procedures like dilation and curettage, hysteroscopy, insertion of an IUD, and endometrial biopsy, especially when performed through the uterus or cervix
- Childbirth, including cesarean section
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Presence of bacteria in the uterus
It is important to note that endometritis can occur alongside other medical conditions that affect the pelvic area, such as cervicitis or inflammation of the cervix.
How it is Diagnosed
If you have noticed any symptoms of endometritis, your doctor will proceed to do a pelvic and physical exam to diagnose the condition. Your doctor will examine your cervix, uterus, and abdomen for any signs of discharge and tenderness.
To ensure a correct diagnosis, the doctor will order other tests such as:
- Taking cultures or samples from your cervix to test for bacteria like gonococcus and chlamydia
- Examining the samples under a microscope
- A laparoscopy: A test that allows your doctor to examine the insides of your pelvis or abdomen closely
- Endometrial biopsy
Your doctor may also order a blood test to measure your erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and white blood cell count because endometritis can cause them to elevate.
Complications that can Result from Endometritis
Though this condition is not life-threatening, it can cause severe illness and health complications if it is not diagnosed and treated on time. Some of the complications associated with endometritis include:
- Septicemia: The presence of bacteria in the blood
- Presence of abscesses or pus in the uterus or pelvis
- A blood infection that leads to extremely low blood pressure, also known as septic shock
- A general infection in the pelvic or peritonitis
When is Endometritis Dangerous?
If you have septicemia, you can be at risk of sepsis, and this is a very severe infection that can escalate quickly. Sepsis also leads to septic shock, a life-threatening emergency requiring prompt and immediate medical attention.
Note that chronic endometritis or severe inflammation of the endometrium is also dangerous. Chronic endometritis occurs when a pathogen is present in your system, but the infection is mild, and you may have no symptoms. Misdiagnosis is also possible with chronic endometritis, and it is one of the major causes of infertility.
Therefore, if you are experiencing any slight discomfort, pelvic pain, abnormal bleeding, or discharge, do not ignore it. See your doctor immediately, because some infections can have severe complications if you do not start the right treatment quickly.
How to Treat Endometritis
Once your doctor has correctly diagnosed this condition, they will start you on treatment immediately. The main aim of the treatment is to get rid of the inflammation and infection from the uterus. The treatment can include:
- Antibiotics to fight the bacteria that cause inflammation in the uterine lining
- Surgical removal of any tissue left after a miscarriage or childbirth
- Needle aspiration or surgery to remove pus or infected fluid to treat abscesses
If the infection is severe, you will need intravenous fluids (IV). This mainly happens if the condition was caused by childbirth. If you test positive for an STI, your doctor will recommend that your sexual partner get an STI test and be treated to prevent re-infection.
It is vital that you take all the medication prescribed to you. After finishing the dosage, your doctor will recommend further tests such as endometrial biopsy or cervical cultures to ensure that the infection is gone. If you still have an infection, you will need to use a different antibiotic to treat the infection.
Can Endometritis be Prevented?
It is possible to reduce the risk of endometritis after a miscarriage, childbirth, or during any other gynecological procedures. If you are highly at risk, your doctor may prescribe some antibiotics before the procedure to reduce the risk. It is vital that you take medicine as prescribed.
Your doctor can also give you antibiotics to take after a gynecological procedure, even if you do not feel unwell or show no symptoms of endometritis. It is crucial to ensure that the medical professional attending to you uses sterile equipment and the right techniques during a procedure. This means only seeking medical care from licensed professionals or hospitals.
After a pelvis surgery, childbirth, cesarean section, or any other internal procedure, your medical team will give you more information on the symptoms to look out for to help catch an infection in good time. If you experience any symptoms, regardless of how mild they are, seek treatment immediately to prevent serious complications.[caption id="attachment_25950" align="alignnone" width="1254"] If you test positive for an STI, your doctor will recommend that your sexual partner get an STI test and be treated to prevent re-infection.[/caption]
Since an STI can also cause endometriosis, it may be ideal to practice safe sex such as the use of condoms, having a single sexual partner, and other good sexual health behaviors. You and your sexual partner should also develop the habit of getting regular screening for STIs, and if you test positive for an infection, you should ensure that you finish the prescribed treatment.
Endometritis and Pregnancy
This condition is also known to affect a woman's ability to get pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term. The inflammation in the uterus can cause scarring, which can prevent an embryo from embedding and growing within the uterine wall. It also increases the likelihood of miscarriages.
In such cases, the doctor may recommend an antibiotic treatment that can improve the chances of a successful pregnancy.
What You Can Expect After the Infection
Suppose you have been diagnosed with endometritis and promptly treated. You will not be at risk of complications or re-infections, especially if you took the medication as prescribed. Endometritis can be successfully treated with antibiotics without any problems.
Problems with infertility, severe infections, or septic shock only occur if you do not get the proper treatment. During treatment, ask your doctor all questions that you may have to help you understand the instructions and treatment plan.
Endometritis is both preventable and treatable. If you show any symptoms of endometritis, it is vital that you seek medical attention immediately. Remember, though this condition is not life-threatening, it can prove fatal if left untreated.