Cervicitis is an inflammation of the cervix, the narrow passageway between the uterus and vagina. Cervical tissue becomes red and swollen, resulting in a range of unpleasant symptoms. Left untreated, cervicitis can lead to serious complications, such as pelvic inflammatory disease.
Cervicitis is common, affecting approximately 50 percent of all women at some point in life. The condition can occur due to a variety of infectious and non-infectious causes, including:
- Allergies or sensitivities to substances, such as spermicides in contraceptive gels or creams, douches, deodorant tampons or latex condoms
- Bacterial vaginosis, an imbalance of healthy vagina bacteria
- Irritation or injury caused by objects such as cervical caps, diaphragms, pessaries, intrauterine devices (IUDs) or tampons
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts (human papillomavirus), gonorrhea or trichomoniasis.
Not all cases of cervicitis produce symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may include:
- Abnormal bleeding — Bleeding or spotting may occur between menstrual periods or after menopause, especially after sexual intercourse.
- Itching — Cervicitis may cause tingling or itchiness inside the vagina or external genitals.
- Pain or pressure — Discomfort may be felt in the pelvis, abdomen or lower back.
- Urinary problems — Urination may be frequent, difficult or painful.
- Vaginal discharge — Pus-like discharge can be white, gray, yellow or green, and may have a foul odor.
Depending on the cause, treatment options may include:
- Antibiotics are used to treat cervicitis caused by bacterial infections, such as gonorrhea.
- Antiviral medicines treat cases caused by viruses, such as genital herpes.
- Antiprotozoal drugs kill the parasite responsible for trichomoniasis.
- Surgery — For chronic, non-infectious cervicitis, procedures such as cryosurgery (freezing), electrocautery (heating) or laser therapy may be required to destroy inflamed, infected or abnormal tissue.
- Topical preparations — If genital warts are the cause, treatment may include products applied to the skin.
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