Merck Manual

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Oluwatosin Goje

, MD, MSCR, Cleveland Clinic, Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University

Reviewed/Revised Mar 2023
Topic Resources

Cervicitis is inflammation of the cervix (the lower, narrow part of the uterus that opens into the vagina). It may be caused by an infection or another condition.

The Uterus, Cervix, and Cervical Canal

Cervicitis may spread upward from the cervix and affect the lining of the uterus (causing endometritis) and other reproductive organs, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. This is called pelvic inflammatory disease Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection of the upper female reproductive organs (the cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries). Pelvic inflammatory disease is often caused by a sexually... read more Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) .

Causes of Cervicitis

If cervicitis occurs suddenly, it is usually caused by an infection. If it has been present for a long time (chronic), it is usually not caused by an infection.

Conditions other than infections can cause cervicitis. They include

  • Gynecologic procedures

  • Objects (such as diaphragms) that are left in the vagina too long

  • Chemicals in douches or contraceptive creams or gels

  • If women are allergic to latex, latex condoms

Symptoms of Cervicitis

Cervicitis may not cause any symptoms. When it does, the most common are an unusual (sometimes yellow-green and puslike) discharge from the vagina and vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods or after sexual intercourse. Some women have pain during intercourse. The area around the opening to the vagina may be red and irritated, as may the vagina.

Diagnosis of Cervicitis

  • A doctor's evaluation

  • Tests on a sample taken from the cervix

A woman should see her doctor if she has a persistent, unusual vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding other than during menstrual periods, or pain during sexual intercourse. However, because cervicitis often causes no symptoms, it may be diagnosed during a routine pelvic examination.

If symptoms suggest cervicitis, doctors do a pelvic examination Gynecologic Examination For gynecologic care, a woman should choose a health care practitioner with whom she can comfortably discuss sensitive topics, such as sex, birth control, pregnancy, and problems related to... read more . They check for a discharge from the cervix and touch the cervix with a swab to see whether it bleeds easily. If a puslike discharge is present and if the cervix bleeds easily, cervicitis is likely.

If symptoms suggest pelvic inflammatory disease, doctors use a swab to obtain a sample from the cervix to be tested for infectious organisms that can cause sexually transmitted infections (such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, or trichomoniasis) or bacterial vaginosis.

Treatment of Cervicitis

  • Usually antibiotics

  • If infection is caused by the herpes simplex virus, antiviral medications

Most women are tested for infection, but treatment is started immediately, even before test results are available. This is done to provide treatment as soon as possible to avoid complications.

Initial treatment of cervicitis consists of antibiotics that are effective against chlamydia and gonorrhea:

  • For chlamydia: Azithromycin or doxycycline, taken by mouth

  • For gonorrhea: Ceftriaxone, given one time by injection into a muscle, plus azithromycin, taken once by mouth

Once the cause of cervicitis is identified, doctors adjust the medications accordingly.

If the cause is a sexually transmitted infection, doctors offer testing for other sexually transmitted infections and counsel about notifying and treating sex partners. For chlamydia or gonorrhea, sex partners should be tested and treated simultaneously. For herpes simplex virus, partners are treated with antiviral medications if they have symptoms.

Women should abstain from sexual activity until the infection has been eliminated from themselves and their sex partners.

Women with confirmed chlamydia or gonorrhea, and those diagnosed with trichomoniasis, should be tested 3 months after treatment because reinfection is common.

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Generic Name Select Brand Names
Azasite, Zithromax, Zithromax Powder, Zithromax Single-Dose , Zithromax Tri-Pak, Zithromax Z-Pak, Zmax, Zmax Pediatric
Acticlate, Adoxa, Adoxa Pak, Avidoxy, Doryx, Doxal, Doxy 100, LYMEPAK, Mondoxyne NL, Monodox, Morgidox 1x, Morgidox 2x , Okebo, Oracea, Oraxyl, Periostat, TARGADOX, Vibramycin, Vibra-Tabs
Ceftrisol Plus, Rocephin
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