The cervix is a small, circular organ that sits at the top of the vaginal canal and forms the opening to the uterus. Cervicitis is a quite common condition that is described as inflammation of the cervix.
Cervicitis can be caused by an allergy, infection, or physical irritation or injury to the cervix. It’s important for your doctor to determine the cause of your cervicitis, especially if that cause is an infection. An infection can rapidly spread to other organs, such as your uterus or fallopian tubes, and cause problems for your future fertility. If you are already pregnant, an infection can increase the risk of complications for you and your baby.
Sexually transmitted infections are a common cause of cervicitis, including:
- Genital herpes
- Mycoplasma and ureaplasma
Cervicitis has many causes outside of STIs, however. Some causes include:
- Injury from objects inserted into the vaginal canal, such as tampons, diaphragms, or pessaries
- Chemical allergies, such as to latex condoms, spermicides, or douches
- Low estrogen or high progesterone levels, caused by menopause or an endocrine disorder
- Bacterial vaginosis, a condition in which there is an unhealthy balance of normal and harmful bacteria in the vagina
- Some cancers or treatments for cancer
Cervicitis is characterized by a reddened and swollen cervix. The cervix may bleed easily or secrete pus or mucus. In many cases, women with cervicitis experience no outward symptoms, but some common symptoms that you may experience include:
- Abnormal bleeding between menstrual periods, especially after sex
- Painful sex
- Pain in the pelvis or abdomen
- Gray or yellowish vaginal discharge
- Frequent, difficult, or painful urination
- Fever (rarely)
Cervicitis is usually diagnosed with a pelvic exam. Your OB-GYN will gently probe the cervix with a cotton swab to check for bleeding, swelling, or tenderness. Your vaginal fluids can be tested for a bacterial infection.
Your doctor will also discuss your recent sexual history, and may ask for the number of partners you’ve been with over the past few months. You may also be asked whether or not you used condoms or other forms of contraception (spermicides, diaphragm, etc). This will help your doctor narrow down the cause of your cervicitis.
If your cervicitis isn’t caused by an infection, then you may not require any medical treatment. The problem often resolves on its own.
However, if it is caused by an STI, you will want to treat the underlying condition right away. The most important thing will be to eradicate the infection from your body and make sure it doesn’t spread to your other systems, or to your baby if you are pregnant.
STIs associated with cervicitis can usually be treated with a regimen of oral drugs or topical creams, such as:
Your sexual partner(s) should also be treated right away to avoid getting the same infection a second time. Abstain from intercourse with your partner(s) until treatment is complete.
You should avoid douching or using any yogurt-based therapy while you have cervicitis. They have not been shown to be effective in treating symptoms and may actually aggravate the condition.
HIV and Cervicitis
If you or your partner is HIV positive, treatment for cervicitis is extremely important. Your inflamed cervix allows even more of the virus to transfer from bloodstream to bloodstream (your body to your partner’s, and vice versa), increasing the chances of transmitting the infection.