Cervical Inflammation (Cervicitis)

What is cervicitis?

Inflammation of the cervix is ​​known as cervicitis. The lowest part of the uterus is called the cervix. It extends slightly into the vagina. This is where menstrual blood exits the uterus. During labor, the cervix dilates to allow the baby to pass into the birth canal (endocervical canal).

Like any tissue in the body, the cervix can become inflamed for a variety of reasons.

What are the symptoms of cervicitis?

Some women with cervicitis experience no symptoms. When symptoms are present, they may include:

  • abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • persistent gray or white vaginal discharge that may have an odor
  • vaginal pain
  • pain during intercourse
  • pelvic pressure feeling
  • backaches

When cervicitis progresses, the cervix can become very inflamed. In some cases, an open sore may develop. Pus-like vaginal discharge is a sign of severe cervicitis.

What causes the service?

The most common cause of this inflammation is an infection. Infections that cause cervicitis can be spread during sexual activity, but this is not always the case. Cervicitis is acute or chronic. Acute cervicitis involves a sudden onset of symptoms. Chronic cervicitis lasts for several months.

Acute cervicitis is typically caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as:

  • herpes simplex or genital herpes
  • chlamydia
  • trichomonas
  • gonorrhea

Infection with HPV that has progressed can cause inflammation of the cervix, which is usually a later sign of cervical cancer or precancerous cancer.

It can also be the result of an infection due to other factors that may include:

  • allergy to spermicide or condom latex
  • a cervical cap or diaphragm
  • sensitivity to chemicals found in tampons
  • regular vaginal bacteria

How is cervicitis diagnosed?

See your doctor for a proper diagnosis if you have symptoms of cervicitis. Cervicitis symptoms may also indicate other vaginal or uterine conditions.

Your doctor may also discover cervicitis during a routine exam, even if you don’t have any symptoms.

There are several ways your doctor can diagnose cervicitis.

bimanual pelvic exam

For this test, your doctor will apply pressure to your abdomen and pelvis while inserting a gloved finger into your vagina. This allows your doctor to detect abnormalities in the pelvic organs, including the cervix and uterus.

Pap test

For this test, also known as a Pap smear, your doctor takes some cells from your vagina and cervix. Then they have these cells tested for abnormalities.

cervical biopsy

Your doctor will only perform this test if they detect abnormalities in your Pap test. For this test, also called a colposcopy, your doctor inserts a speculum into your vagina. Then they take a cotton swab and gently clean the vagina and cervix of mucus residue.

Your doctor looks at your cervix using a microscope-type colposcope and examines the area. They then take tissue samples from areas that look abnormal.

cervical discharge culture

Your doctor may also decide to take a sample of discharge from your cervix. They will examine the sample under other conditions to check for signs of infection, which may include candidiasis and vaginosis.

You may also need tests for STIs, such as trichomoniasis. If you have an STI, you will need treatment for cervicitis to get better.

What are the treatment options for cervicitis?

There is no standard treatment for cervicitis. Your doctor will determine the best course for you based on factors including:

  • your general health
  • your medical history
  • the severity of your symptoms
  • degree of inflammation

Common treatments include antibiotics to kill infections and watchful waiting, especially after giving birth. If cervicitis is caused by irritation from a foreign body (retained tampon or pessary) or irritation of certain products (cervical cap or contraceptive sponge), treatment requires continued use for a short period of time to allow healing.

If you have cervix inflammation due to cervical cancer or precancer, your doctor may perform cryosurgery that causes the abnormal cells in the cervix to freeze and destroy them. Silver nitrate can also destroy abnormal cells.

Your doctor can treat cervicitis after learning the cause. Without treatment, cervicitis can last for years and cause painful intercourse and worsening symptoms.

What are the complications associated with cervicitis?

Cervicitis caused by gonorrhea or chlamydia can move into the uterus and fallopian tubes, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID causes additional pelvic pain, discharge, and fever. Untreated PID can also lead to fertility problems.

How do I prevent cervicitis?

There are ways to reduce the risk of cervicitis. Using a condom every time you have sex can reduce your risk of sexual transmission. Avoiding sexual intercourse will also protect you from cervicitis caused by STIs.

Avoiding products that contain chemicals, such as touch pads and scented tampons, can reduce your risk of an allergic reaction. If you insert something into your vagina, such as a tampon or diaphragm, follow the instructions on when to remove it or how to clean it.

Q&A: Tests for STIs that lead to cervicitis

S:

What kind of tests do I need to do to find out if my cervicitis is causing an STI?

C

This requires a general STI screening. Primarily, some STIs are caused by bacteria, while others are caused by viruses.

Resources:

Disease characterized by urethritis and cervicitis. (2015).

Cryosurgery of the cervix. (2014).

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Cervicitis.

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