Tubal Infection

An infection in the fallopian tube or tubal infections is called Salpingitis. When a woman is affected with Salpingitis, excess fluids or pus accumulates within the tube. And there is a tendency of both the tubes getting infected as bacteria travels through the nearby lymph vessels thus affecting the other tube as well. Tubal infections are a common cause of infertility among women. To understand the symptoms, causes and treatment of tubal infections, let us go through this article.
Tubal Infection
Tubal Infection

What is a Tubal Infection?

Tubal infection also called Salpingitis is an infection and inflammation in the fallopian tubes. It is caused due to bacterial infection in the reproductive organs and the fallopian tubes. The fallopian tube are two fine tubes on either side of the uterus and is important as it carries the mature egg and the motile sperms, and the process of fertilisation takes place here.

Salpingitis is often seen in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), but PID can refer to many other diseases of the female upper genital tract. If not treated timely, the infection can cause permanent damage to the tubes and affect a woman’s fertility.

Types of Salpingitis (Tubal Infection)

It can be divided into two types:

  • Acute Salpingitis - In this type of salpingitis the fallopian tubes swell, have redness and secrete fluid. The inner lining of the tube sticks together or to other nearby tissues due to the discharge of the sticky fluid or pus from the infection site. In rare cases, the fallopian tubes can rupture and lead to a severe condition where the infection can spread to the abdominal and pelvic cavity.
  • Chronic Salpingitis - This type of salpingitis follows after an acute attack. It persists for a longer period, but the symptoms are milder. It is advisable to contact a doctor if there are any symptoms of salpingitis. If not detected in time it can gradually spread and may permanently damage the fallopian tubes.

What are the Symptoms of Tubal Infections?

In Chronic Salpingitis, there may be no noticeable symptoms, but it can gradually damage the fallopian tubes without the woman even realising that she has an infection. But in acute cases, there may be some prominent symptoms like:

  • Abnormal colour or foul smell of the vaginal discharge
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Pain during ovulation
  • Pain in the lower back
  • Fever and frequent urination
  • Spotting in between menstrual cycle
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue and a feeling of uneasiness

What are the Causes of Tubal Infection?

Tubal infections are caused by excessive growth of harmful bacteria in the fallopian tubes and through sexually transmitted diseases. The origin of the infection is the vagina, from which it gradually spreads to the fallopian tubes. Different micro-organisms that can cause tubal infection are:

  • Mycoplasma,
  • Chlamydia,
  • Gonococcus,
  • Staphylococcus and
  • Streptococcus

Tubal Infection and Its Effect on Fertility

Tubal infections if not detected early can cause permanent damage to the fallopian tubes, thus blocking it. This can lead to infertility because the eggs that are released during ovulation can’t meet the sperm. In addition to that, the damage it causes to the fallopian tube can also increase the risk of Ectopic pregnancy. Other complications that can arise are:

  • The infection can spread to other areas like the uterus and ovaries
  • Can cause long-term pelvic and abdominal pain
  • Can create an abscess in the fallopian tubes and ovaries

Diagnosis of Tubal Infection

If there are any symptoms of Salpingitis, it is advisable to visit the doctor immediately to reduce the risk of complications associated with it. To make an accurate diagnosis, the doctor might suggest some tests like:

  • Blood and Urine Tests - This test will look for the infection.
  • Vaginal or Cervical Swab - This will determine the type of bacterial infection.
  • Transvaginal or Abdominal Ultrasound - These imaging tests will look at the fallopian tubes and other areas of the reproductive tract.
  • Hysterosalpingogram (HSG Test) - This test will check the patency of fallopian tubes.
  • Diagnostic Laparoscopy - This minor invasive surgical procedure will let the doctors get a full glimpse of the fallopian tubes and other reproductive organs.

Treatment of Tubal Infections

Treatment will depend on the severity of the infection. Getting diagnosis at the right time is necessary because tubal infections if not identified at the right time can cause blockages, adhesions or scarring of tissues in the fallopian tubes which can lead to infertility.

A vaginal or cervical swab will help to determine the type of bacterial infection. Milder infections can be treated by administering antibiotics. But severe infections which have resulted in blockage of tubes would be needed to be removed. If the infection has caused an abscess, laparoscopy surgery may be done to drain the fluid.

If the obstruction can’t be removed surgically, and a woman is planning pregnancy then In vitro fertilisation (IVF) may be needed for a successful conception where the fallopian tubes are bypassed completely provided the sperm, egg and womb (uterus) are healthy. For success through IVF, the age and overall health of the woman would play a significant role.

FAQs

Q1) How do you get an infection in the fallopian tubes?

A) Infection in the fallopian tubes is caused by bacterial infection. Common causes include sexually transmitted diseases like Gonorrhoea and Chlamydia.

Q2) Can you feel swollen fallopian tubes?

A) Swollen fallopian tubes cannot be felt from the outside but can lead to unusual discharge from the vagina, pain in the lower abdomen, fever which will lead to the diagnosis of fallopian tube infections.

Q3) Is pregnancy possible with a swollen fallopian tube?

A) Swollen fallopian tubes would mean discharge of pus or some sticky fluid from the infection site which will accumulate in the fallopian tubes, so the mature egg would not be able to reach the uterus, and the sperm cannot reach the egg, thus preventing fertilisation and pregnancy.

References

1. https://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/citation/1983/01000/criteria_for_diagnosis_and_grading_of_salpingitis.23.aspx
2. https://journals.lww.com/co-infectiousdiseases/Abstract/2004/02000/Tubal_factor_infertility,_with_special_regard_to.10.aspx
3. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejm197706162962403