A woman needs to be aware of her body to stay in optimal health.
One area of a woman’s body that can be ignored due to embarrassment or lack of knowledge may be her reproductive system.
If she wants to reproduce and bear children, or if she wants to avoid a serious infection, a female must remain aware of feelings of malaise and discomfort in her lower abdominal regions that might indicate and infection such as oophoritis.
But what is oophoritis, what are its symptoms, and what can be done to cure this uncomfortable and possibly debilitating disease?
What is Oophoritis?
According to Medicalfoxx, oophoritis is an inflammation of the ovaries.(1)
One or both ovaries may be infected and inflamed in a case of oophoritis. If a woman has pelvic inflammatory disease, they have inflamed ovaries and therefore have oophoritis.
Also, according to Wisegeekhealth, bacterial infections cause this condition, usually via a sexually transmitted disease.(2) Oophoritis is usually acquired when a woman is between the ages of 15 and 25. If a woman has frequent abdominal pain along with fever and vaginal discharge, she should see her gynecologist right away.
As with many types of infection, it is crucial to treat the problem before it becomes more harmful to the reproductive system and spreads throughout the body.
Unfortunately, this condition usually accompanies other pelvic inflammatory diseases as the infection spreads.
According to Rightdiagnosis Autoimmune oophoritis and Oophoritis parotidea are the two main types of oophoritis diagnoses.(3)
Autoimmune oophoritis occurs when a woman’s body’s system attacks her ovaries, causing inflammation. In autoimmune oophoritis, ovarian functioning stops prematurely.
This is a rare condition, whose symptoms include:(4)
- Lower abdominal pain.
- A general feeling of malaise.
- Irregular menstrual bleeding.
- Unusual vaginal discharge.
- Upset stomach and vomiting.
- Enlarged ovaries.
- Lower back pain.
- Problems with fertility.
Oophoritis parotidea is the second main type of this disorder and will be referred to as oophoritis in the remainder of this article.
- Pain in the abdominal region.
- Pain in the pelvic region.
- Vaginal discharge. Mucopurulent discharge that increases in amount, or has a different color or smell than usual is a common symptom of this illness.
- Dyspareunia, which is painful or uncomfortable sexual intercourse.
- Fever. A temperature of over 38 C or 100.4 F may indicate that a person has this health problem.
- Cervical motion tenderness. According to Medical-dictionary, discomfort during a digital cervical exam indicates that oophoritis may be suspected.(7)
- Tenderness in the appendages of the vagina, which is technically called Adnexal tenderness. Specifically, this tenderness occurs in the area of the ovaries.
- According to Gyn-care, if the oophoritis includes a TOA (tubo-ovarian abscess), it may be felt during a physical examination of the pelvic area or by ultrasound.
- Pain during urination.
If a woman feels any combination of these symptoms, she should consult their health care provider for further diagnosis and treatment.
The causes include:(6)
- Unprotected sexual intercourse. Using a condom protects a woman from contracting the condition from a sexual partner.
- Multiple sexual partners.
- Participating in high-risk sexual behavior.
- Immunosuppression. If a woman has an impaired immune system, she has a greater chance of acquiring an inflammatory condition in their ovaries.
- Use of an instrument of some type in the genital tract. Some examples of the instrumentation of the genitals include IUD use and an endometrial biopsy or hysteroscopy that has recently been performed with improperly disinfected instruments.
- Curretage. According to Rightdiagnosis, scraping the uterus in a curettage procedure may instigate an infection in the ovaries.(8)
- Sexually transmitted diseases, especially N. gonorrhea and Chlamydia, can cause this condition.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease. PID is an infection of a woman’s reproductive organs.
- Mycoplasma. Microplasma is a bacterial infection that has cells with no cell walls around the cell’s membrane, according to. This makes the bacterial infection cells difficult to treat using antibiotics.
- Infection due to staphylococcus bacteria exposure.
- Infection due to streptococcus bacteria exposure.
- Ureaplasma urealyticum bacteria exposure.
- Having the mumps.
- An infection in the fallopian tubes.
What Problems can Oophoritis Cause in a Woman’s Body?
According to Baby-pedia, inflammation of the ovaries can cause fertility problems.(9)
Because pregnancy starts when a sperm and egg meet, any inflammation or infection can cause a problem either getting pregnant or a problem with the pregnancy itself. Oophoritis may cause adhesions in the area around the ovaries or may block the fallopian tubes that cause an egg not to be released from the ovary.
Thankfully, if one ovary becomes blocked, a female may still be able to become pregnant from an egg from the other ovary. Becoming pregnant may take longer if a woman develops oophoritis, and pregnancy is counter indicated in females with an active infection in the uterine area.
Also, oophoritis may also lead to an ectopic pregnancy if it isn’t diagnosed and treated before becoming pregnant.
An ectopic pregnancy is one that occurs in a place other than inside the uterus. If a woman is experiencing any of the symptoms of this inflammatory disease, she should be sure to be tested and treated before attempting to become pregnant.
Tests to Diagnose Oophoritis
Some of the studies and tests that may need to be performed to determine whether a woman has this condition include:(6)
CBC. A CBC is a count of white blood cells. Elevated blood cell levels indicate an infection may be present.
Urinalysis. A urinary tract test may be done to determine whether the patient has a urinary tract infection.
Urinary pregnancy testing. This test is done to eliminate the possibility that a woman has a tubal or ectopic pregnancy.
A testing of cervical discharge that determines the existence of white blood cells and bacteria in the cervix.
Tests for gonorrhea and chlamydia to rule out these STDs.
Pelvic ultrasound. Pelvic ultrasounds may enable the diagnosing physician to get a better look at the uterus to determine the cause of the symptoms.
Pelvic manual exam. The area may be too painful for a thorough pelvic exam. Diagnostic laparoscopy. Laparoscopy is the best way to determine whether a woman has inflammation in the ovaries or not.
Many women can be treated on an outpatient basis if they are physically stable, able to return to the doctor for continuing care, have a properly working immune system.(6)
Also, women may be treated if they are not pregnant, can tolerate oral medications or if they don’t show any symptoms of the infection reaching the fallopian tubes (have a TOA).
A woman may need hospital care if they have tried outpatient care and it has not worked. A pregnant woman with oophoritis may need to be hospitalized for treatment. The last two reasons a woman needs inpatient hospital treatment for this inflammatory condition include if they have HIV or a tubo-ovarian abscess (TOA).
Does Treating Include Surgery?
Treating this infection doesn’t always include surgery.
But in some cases, surgical intervention may be required to completely treat this oophoritis completely.(6) If non-surgical treatments have not cleared up symptoms of this inflammatory disorder within 48 to 72 hours, surgery may be required to rid the woman entirely of the problem.
The types of surgical procedures that may be required are:
- Draining the abscess. Interventional radiology may be used to drain the abscess.
- Removing the adnexa, or the appendages around the uterus.
- Total abdominal hysterectomy-bilateral sagittal oophorectomy (TAH/BSO)
Other factors that may influence a physician to decide to use surgical means to cure oophoritis include:
The size of the abscess.
The patient’s immunological health. Immunocompromised patients may need to have their ovaries surgically removed if their immune system cannot tolerate the infection.
Preserving fertility in the patient with oophoritis if she may want to have children in the future. One inflamed ovary may need to be removed to protect the remaining ovary and allow a female a chance to become pregnant.
If a female experiences discomfort in their pelvic region, lower back or lower abdomen, she needs to make an appointment with her gynecologist or health care provider as soon as possible.
Changes in menstrual patterns or the amount of menstrual flow should also be investigated, as an increase in menstrual flow may indicate oophoritis, as well. If the condition is caught quickly, less damage will be done to a woman’s reproductive system, and the infection will not have a chance to spread elsewhere in the body and cause further reproductive problems.
A health care provider may run some tests or use medical technology to determine whether or not a female has oophoritis. If treatment is done quickly, a course of antibiotics may be all that is needed to clear up the inflammation.
A health care provider may recommend that a woman is treated for oophoritis using surgical means. The most important concept is that a woman is aware of her body and treat the inflammation as quickly as possible to avoid further medical problems.
“Mishell D, Stenchever M, Droegemueller W: Comprehensive Gynecology. 3rd ed Mosby Year Book; 1997: 662-690.”