Inability to conceive due to dysfunction of the fallopian tubes accounts for about 25 percent of all cases of infertility. There are a number of different problems that can affect the fallopian tubes.
These include partial or complete tubal blockage, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and scarring or other damage to the fallopian tubes.
Pelvic inflammatory disease is the main cause of tubal factor infertility. This is caused by inflammation or infection moving up the vagina through the uterus into the fallopian tubes, culminating in scarring.
It is usually caused by gonorrhea or chlamydia. White blood cells fight the infection, but in the process the lining of the tubes can become scarred permanently. Scar tissue can block the end of the tube.
Scarring can also be caused by pelvic surgery for the removal of ovarian cysts or uterine surgery for the removal of fibroids, or by the use of intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUDs).
Pelvic inflammatory disease can cause abdominal pain, bleeding, fever and chills, pain upon urination, and vaginal discharge. PID can cause greatly increased risk of ectopic (tubal) pregnancies.
Pelvic inflammatory disease can be treated with antibiotics if the condition is caught early enough. It may also be treated with surgery and with in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
For women under the age of 39, in-vitro fertilization for tubal-related infertility is often successful.
A fallopian tube filled with fluid is called a hydrosalpinx. The end of the tube (ampulla) is closed by injury or infection of the ampulla or its fingers (fimbria). Glands in the tube produce fluid which causes swelling.
Hydrosalpinx is usually caused by chlamydia or gonorrhea, often undetected for years during which the fimbria are gradually damaged. Other causes are endometriosis, abdominal surgery and the use of IUDs.
Hydrosalpinx can hinder the success of fertility treatments because the fluid in the tube can be toxic to the embryo and can prevent the embryo from becoming attached. Fertility drugs can increase the fluid in the tube.