Cervicitis is a inflammation of the cervix (the opening into the uterus). This inflammation can be chronic and may or may not have an identified cause.
Causes and symptoms
The most common cause of cervicitis is infection, either local or as a result of various sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea. Cervicitis can also be caused by birth control devices such as a cervical cap or diaphragm, or chemical exposure. Other risk factors include multiple sexual partners or cervical trauma following birth. In postmenopausal women, cervicitis is sometimes related to a lack of estrogen.
Although a woman may not notice any signs of infection, symptoms of cervicitis include the following:
- persistent unusual vaginal discharge
- abnormal bleeding, either between periods or following sexual intercourse
- painful sexual intercourse
- vaginal pain
- frequent need to urinate
- burning or itching in the vaginal area
The standard method of diagnosing cervicitis is through a pelvic examination or a Pap smear. During the pelvic exam, the physician usually swabs the affected area, and then sends the tissue sample to a laboratory. The laboratory tries to identify the specific organism responsible for causing the cervicitis. A biopsy to take a sample of tissue from the affected area is sometimes required in order to rule out cancer. Colposcopy, a procedure used to look at the cervix under a microscope, may also be used to rule out cancer.
The first course of treatment for cervicitis is usually antibiotics. If these medicines do not cure the cervicitis, other treatment options include:
Cervicitis will usually be cured when the course of therapy is complete. Severe cases, however, may last for a few months, even after the therapy is complete. If the cervicitis was caused by a sexually transmitted disease, both partners should be treated with medication.
Practicing safe sexual behavior, such as monogamy, is one way of lowering the prevalence of cervicitis. In addition, women who began sexual activity at a later age have been shown to have a lower incidence of cervicitis. Another recommendation is to use a latex condom consistently during intercourse. If the cervicitis is caused by any sexually transmitted disease, the patient is advised to notify all sexual partners.
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American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 409 12th Street, SW P.O. Box 96920, Washington, DC 20090-6920. (202) 863-2518. <http://www.acog.org>.
Kim Sharp, M.Ln.
Cryotherapy—Freezing the affected tissue.
Electrocoagulation—Using electrical current to cauterize the affected tissue.
LEEP—Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure.