Cervicitis, an inflammation of the lining of the cervix, affects more than 50 percent of all adult women at some point during their lives.
Most often, cervicitis causes no signs and symptoms. However, when symptoms are present, they can include abnormal vaginal bleeding that occurs either after intercourse, menopause or between periods.
Large amounts of vaginal discharge green, brown or yellow and pus-like (which can also have an unpleasant odor) can appear. Other symptoms of cervicitis include vaginal pain, painful intercourse, heaviness or pressure in the pelvis and frequent, painful urination.
Most often cervicitis is caused by an infection caught during sexual activity. These sexually transmitted infections (STIs) include gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, genital herpes and human papillomavirus.
Other causes of cervicitis include problems with devices inserted into the vagina such as a cervical cap or diaphragm; allergies to spermicides or latex in condoms; and chemical exposure from items like douches and deodorant tampons.
Cervicitis is common after childbirth. In addition it may occur during pregnancy as a woman’s increased hormone levels cause increased blood flow to the cervix.
The greater risk of cervicitis comes from engaging in high-risk sexual behavior, having sexual intercourse at an early age, and a history of STIs.
Antibiotics and antivirals are often used to treat cervicitis. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections (such as chlamydia and gonorrhea) while antivirals can treat herpes infections.
Hormonal therapy may be used to treat cervicitis in menopausal women.
When the above treatments don’t work or when one has chronic cervicitis, other treatments may include cryosurgery (freezing), electrocauterization or laser therapy.
In order to avoid passing a bacterial infection to your partner, abstain from sexual intercourse until the treatment recommended by your doctor is completely finished.
It is very important to seek treatment when diagnosed with cervicitis. Cervicitis caused by an STI, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia, can move to the fallopian tubes and uterine lining causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
PID then causes additional pelvic pain, vaginal discharge and fever. Furthermore, untreated PID can cause fertility problems.
Even worse, if cervicitis – caused by an STI – is left untreated during pregnancy, it can lead to premature labor and miscarriage. And it could cause infections in the newborn’s eyes and lungs.
Women can reduce their risk of cervicitis by avoiding chemical irritants like douches and deodorant tampons. They should ensure that devices inserted into the vagina are properly placed. And they should always follow the instructions on how long to leave such devices inside and how often they should be changed and cleaned.
Use condoms consistently and correctly each time during sexual intercourse.
"Cervicitis." Definition. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Web. 4 Dec. 2014.
"Cervicitis." Cervicitis. The City of New York. Web. 4 Dec. 2014.
"Cervicitis: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia." U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Web. 4 Dec. 2014.
Herndon, Jaime. "Inflammation of the Cervix (Cervicitis)." Healthline. Healthline Networks, Inc. Web. 4 Dec. 2014.
Reviewed December 5, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith