Cervicitis is an inflammation of the cervix, the lower, narrow end of the uterus that opens into the vagina.
Possible symptoms of cervicitis include bleeding between menstrual periods, pain with intercourse or during a pelvic exam, and abnormal vaginal discharge. However, it's also possible to have cervicitis and not experience any signs or symptoms.
Often, cervicitis results from a sexually transmitted infection, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea. Cervicitis can develop from noninfectious causes, too. Successful treatment of cervicitis involves treating the underlying cause of the inflammation.
Most often, cervicitis causes no signs and symptoms, and you may only learn you have the condition after a pelvic exam performed by your doctor for another reason. If you do have signs and symptoms, they may include:
See your doctor if you have:
Possible causes of cervicitis include:
You're at greater risk of cervicitis if you:
Your cervix acts as a barrier to keep bacteria and viruses from entering your uterus. When the cervix is infected, there's an increased risk that the infection will travel into your uterus.
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 that can cause fertility problems if left untreated.
Cervicitis can also increase the risk of getting HIV from an infected sexual partner.
To reduce your risk of cervicitis from sexually transmitted infections, use condoms consistently and correctly each time you have sex. Condoms are very effective against the spread of STIs, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, which can lead to cervicitis. Being in a long-term relationship in which both you and your uninfected partner are committed to having sex with each other exclusively can lower your odds of an STI.
To diagnose cervicitis, your doctor will likely perform a physical exam that includes:
You won't need treatment for cervicitis caused by an allergic reaction to products such as spermicide or feminine hygiene products. If you have cervicitis caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI), both you and your partner will need treatment, often with an antibiotic medication. Antibiotics are prescribed for STIs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia or bacterial infections, including bacterial vaginosis.
Your doctor may offer antiviral medication if you have genital herpes, which helps decrease the amount of time you have cervicitis symptoms. However, there is no cure for herpes. Herpes is a chronic condition that may be passed to your sexual partner at any time.
Your doctor may also recommend repeat testing for cervicitis caused by gonorrhea or chlamydia.
To avoid passing a bacterial infection along to your partner, wait to have sex until you're finished with the treatment recommended by your doctor.
Cervicitis may be discovered incidentally during a routine pelvic exam and may not require treatment if it's not due to an infection. If, however, you experience unusual vaginal symptoms that lead you to schedule an appointment, you'll most likely see a gynecologist or primary care doctor.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
Some basic questions include:
Don't hesitate to ask additional questions during your appointment if you think of something else.
Your doctor will likely perform a physical exam that may include a pelvic exam and Pap test. He or she may collect a fluid specimen from your vagina or cervix to send for testing.
Your doctor may also ask you a number of questions about your condition, such as: