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Alternative namesCervical inflammation; Inflammation - cervix
DefinitionCervicitis is an inflammation of the uterine cervix , usually caused by infection.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Cervicitis is most often caused by an infection. However, in a few cases it may be attributed to chemical exposure or a foreign body, such as a pessary (a device inserted into the vagina to support the uterus), cervical cap (a birth control device), or diaphragm.
The condition may also be caused by an allergy to contraceptive spermicides or to latex in condoms. In cases of cervicitis attributed to foreign objects, infection is still frequently the cause, but the presence of the foreign object may make the cervix more susceptible to infection (irritated or raw areas, buildup of discharge, unsanitary insertion methods, etc.).
Cervicitis is very common, affecting more than half of all women at some point during their adult lives. Increased risk is associated with intercourse at an early age, high-risk sexual behavior, multiple sexual partners, and a history of sexually transmitted disease.
Increased risk is also associated with having a partner who has engaged in high-risk sexual behavior or who has had a previous sexually transmitted disease. Gonorrhea , chlamydia , and trichomonas are commonly seen sexually transmitted infections that can cause cervicitis.
Infection with the herpes virus ( genital herpes ) and human papilloma virus ( genital warts ) are two other sexually transmitted diseases that can cause cervicitis and abnormal changes in a Pap smear . Organisms, such as staphylococcus and streptococcus, and excessive growth of normal vaginal bacteria (bacterial vaginosis), can also cause cervicitis.
Note: There may be no symptoms.
Signs and tests
A pelvic examination reveals redness of the cervix or evidence of a cervical discharge. It may also reveal inflammation of the vaginal walls caused by the infected discharge.
Infectious causes are treated with prescription medication (antibiotics or antifungals). Medications may be taken orally (by mouth) or applied in the vagina (cream or lotion).
Hormonal therapy may be initiated, especially in postmenopausal women. Cryosurgery , electrocauterization , and laser therapy are other treatment options that may be considered, if less invasive measures are not successful.
Simple cervicitis typically heals with treatment if the cause is adequately identified and treatment is available for that specific cause.
Chronic (long-term) cervicitis may develop and persist for months to years. Cervicitis may be a causative factor in dyspareunia ( pain with intercourse ).
Calling your health care provider
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you are a woman, age 20 or older, and have had no prior pelvic examination and Pap smear .
Call for an appointment with the health care provider if you have not obtained a pelvic exam and Pap smear at the recommended intervals. Typical recommendations are:
Studies indicate that women who begin sexual activity at a later age and engage only in a monogamous relationship have a markedly decreased incidence of both cervicitis and abnormal Pap smears.
Safer sex behaviors, including monogamy, will reduce the likelihood of cervicitis. Chemical irritants , such as douches and deodorant tampons, should be avoided. Women who have active cervicitis should avoid using spermicidal contraceptives, if possible. However, if they are the only form of contraceptive available to you, it is better to practice safer sex by using them.
Many women use barrier methods of contraception (diaphragm, condoms, cervical caps) which must be used with a spermicidal jelly for best protection against unwanted pregnancy. See your health care provider to discuss alternative contraceptive methods prior to stopping your present barrier method.
Make sure that any foreign objects that you insert into your vagina , such as a pessary, diaphragm, sponge, or tampon, are inserted and placed properly. Be sure to follow the recommended guidelines as to how long to leave the object in, how often to change it, or how often to clean it. Good hygiene is always recommended.
Update Date: 1/27/2002Dominic Marchiano, M.D., Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT