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Cervicitis

What is cervicitis?

Illustration of the anatomy of the female pelvic area
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Cervicitis is an irritation of the cervix caused by a number of different organisms. Cervicitis is generally classified as either acute, meaning the onset of symptoms is severe and sudden, or chronic, lasting over a period of months or longer.

Acute cervicitis can be caused by any of a number of infections such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, or herpes, and is often confused with vaginitis.

Chronic cervicitis is common in women following childbirth. It is also often associated with pregnancy and the use of oral contraceptives, probably due to an increased blood supply to the cervix as a result of increased hormone levels. Less commonly, cervicitis is caused by sensitivities to certain chemicals, including those in spermicides, latex, and tampons.

What are the symptoms of cervicitis?

The following are the most common symptoms of cervicitis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include the following:

  • purulent discharge (containing pus)
  • pelvic pain
  • backache
  • urinary problems

Since infections within the vagina are easily passed to the cervix, where the infecting organism is harbored, the tissue of the cervix can become inflamed and/or form a cervical erosion, or open sore. One early sign of this is a pus-like vaginal discharge. In addition, as the cervical erosion worsens, cervical ulceration may develop.

The symptoms of cervicitis may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

How is cervicitis diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical and pelvic examination, diagnostic procedures for cervicitis may include the following:

  • Pap test - test that involves microscopic examination of cells collected from the cervix; used to detect changes that may be cancerous or may lead to cancer, and to show noncancerous conditions, such as infection or inflammation.
  • biopsy - a procedure in which tissue samples are removed from the body for examination under a microscope; to determine if cancer or other abnormal cells are present.
  • culture of cervical discharge

Treatment for cervicitis:

Specific treatment for cervicitis will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • type and severity of the symptoms
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • antibiotics (to eliminate infecting organisms)
  • "watchful waiting" (often in cases caused by childbirth or oral contraceptives)
  • silver nitrate (to destroy damaged cells in cervical erosion)
  • cryosurgery - the use of liquid nitrogen, or a probe that is very cold, to freeze and kill abnormal cells

Click here to view the
Online Resources of Gynecological Health

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