Cervicitis is an inflammation of the cervix, the lower, narrow end of your uterus that opens into your vagina. Most cases of cervicitis are without symptoms (asymptomatic) and of little consequence; however, some cases of cervicitis are caused by infection with sexually transmitted diseases, including gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Successful treatment of cervicitis may involve addressing the cause of the inflammation. In some cases of cervicitis, antibiotics are used to clear an underlying infection.
You can reduce your risk of developing significant cervicitis by practicing safer sex and by following your doctor's recommended Pap screening schedule.
Most often, cervicitis causes no signs and symptoms, and you may only learn you have the condition after a Pap test or a biopsy for another condition. If you do have signs and symptoms, they may include:
When to see a doctor
Often, cervicitis produces no signs and symptoms and may be discovered only in the course of a routine Pap test — a good reason to have regular pelvic exams and Pap tests.
Two types of cells line your cervix: flat, skin-like cells (squamous cells) and glandular cells that secrete mucus. The same organisms responsible for vaginitis, an inflammation of the vagina, can cause cervicitis.
Your cervix acts as a barrier to keep bacteria and viruses that come in contact with your vagina from entering your uterus. However, when bacteria and viruses infect the cervix, they cause inflammation and may increase the risk that the infection will travel into your uterus.
Possible causes of cervicitis include:
Female reproductive system
The ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix and vagina make up the female reproductive system. ...
With cervicitis, an inflammation of your cervix, your cervix appears red and irritated and may produce a gray or yellow pus-like discharge. ...
You're at greater risk of getting cervicitis associated with STDs if you:
You may also be at increased risk if you have sex with a partner who has engaged in high-risk sexual behavior or has had a sexually transmitted disease.
Cervicitis that's caused by gonorrhea or chlamydia can spread to the uterine lining and the fallopian tubes, resulting in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection of the female reproductive organs, including the uterus, fallopian tubes, cervix and ovaries. Women who develop PID may experience pelvic pain, fever and vaginal discharge, or have no signs or symptoms. PID may be detected only later when a woman has trouble becoming pregnant and learns that her reproductive organs have been damaged.
Preparing for your appointment
Cervicitis is most often discovered incidentally during a routine pelvic exam and Pap test and often doesn't require treatment. If, however, you experience unusual vaginal symptoms that lead you to schedule an appointment, you'll most likely see a gynecologist, family doctor or other health care provider.
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Also make a list of all medications or supplements you're taking or any allergies you have. Write down questions to ask your doctor. Some basic questions include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment if you don't understand something.
Questions your doctor may ask
Tests and diagnosis
Your doctor will likely perform a physical examination, including:
In a pelvic exam, your physician inserts two gloved fingers inside your vagina. While simultaneously pressing down on your abdomen, he or she can examine your uterus, ovaries and other organs. ...
Treatments and drugs
You may not need treatment for cervicitis that's not caused by an STD. If the cause is an STD, both you and your partner are likely to need treatment.
Prescription medications often can clear up the inflammation of cervicitis. Treatment for a bacterial infection is with an antibiotic. If the cause is viral, such as genital herpes, the treatment is an antiviral medication. However, antiviral medication doesn't cure herpes, which is a chronic condition.
To avoid passing an infection along to your partner, abstain from sexual intercourse until you're finished with the treatment recommended by your doctor.
One of the best ways to reduce the risk of cervicitis from STDs is to practice safer sex. Women who become sexually active at a later age and those in monogamous relationships are at a lower risk of getting cervicitis than are those who become sexually active early in life and who have multiple partners.
Using a latex condom during intercourse reduces the risk of sexually transmitted infections. However, some women have allergies to latex condoms or to spermicidal jelly, which is used with condoms to prevent pregnancy. If you're allergic to latex, you'll need to use a nonlatex condom or another method of birth control. No other birth control method besides condoms protects against STDs.
Last Updated: 2009-11-10
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