Cervicitis is often caused by a sexually transmitted infection but may result from other conditions.
The most common symptoms are an unusual discharge from the vagina and vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods or after sexual intercourse, but women may not have any symptoms.
If symptoms suggest a cervical infection, doctors use a swab to obtain a sample from the cervix to be tested for microorganisms that can cause infection.
Women are often first given antibiotics that are effective against chlamydial infections and gonorrhea (the most common causes).
Cervicitis may spread upward from the cervix and affect the lining of the uterus (causing endometritis) and other reproductive organs (causing 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 usually transmitted during... read more ).
Causes of Cervicitis
If cervicitis appears suddenly, it is usually caused by an infection. If it has been present for a long time (is chronic), it is usually not caused by an infection.
Infections that commonly cause cervicitis include sexually transmitted infections Overview of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) Sexually transmitted (venereal) diseases are infections that are typically, but not exclusively, passed from person to person through sexual contact. Sexually transmitted infections may be caused... read more such as
Chlamydial infections Chlamydial and Other Nongonococcal Infections Chlamydial infections include sexually transmitted infections of the urethra, cervix, and rectum that are caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. These bacteria can also infect... read more due to the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis (most common)
Gonorrhea Gonorrhea Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which infect the lining of the urethra, cervix, rectum, and throat or the membranes that cover... read more due to the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae (second most common)
Infection with the bacteria Mycoplasma genitalium
Infections of the vagina (such as bacterial vaginosis Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) Bacterial vaginosis is a vaginal infection that occurs when the balance of bacteria in the vagina is altered. Women who have a sexually transmitted infection, who have several sex partners,... read more and Trichomonas vaginitis may also affect the cervix. Often, the microorganism that causes cervicitis cannot be identified.
Conditions other than infections can cause cervicitis. They include
Objects (such as diaphragms) that are left in the vagina too long
Chemicals in douches or contraceptive creams
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, urination, or both. The area around the opening to the vagina may be red and irritated, as may the vagina.
Women may have other symptoms depending on what is causing cervicitis. For example, if the cause is 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 usually transmitted during... read more or herpes simplex infection Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Infections Herpes simplex virus infection causes recurring episodes of small, painful, fluid-filled blisters on the skin, mouth, lips (cold sores), eyes, or genitals. This very contagious viral infection... read more , women may have a fever and pain in the lower the abdomen.
Women are commonly reinfected.
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 microorganisms that can cause sexually transmitted infections (such as gonorrhea or a chlamydial or Trichomonas infection) or bacterial vaginosis.
Treatment of Cervicitis
Usually antibiotics at first
If infection is caused by the herpes simplex virus, antiviral drugs
If cervicitis appeared suddenly, most women are given antibiotics that are effective against chlamydial infections and gonorrhea, particularly if they have risk factors for sexually transmitted infection (such as being younger than 25, having new or several sex partners, or not using protection during sex).
Treatment of cervicitis consists of the following:
For chlamydial infection: Azithromycin or doxycycline, taken by mouth until test results are available
For gonorrhea: Ceftriaxone, given one time by injection into a muscle, plus azithromycin, taken once by mouth
Once the cause is identified, doctors adjust the drugs accordingly.
If the cause is a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria (such as chlamydial infections and gonorrhea), sex partners should be tested and treated simultaneously. Women should abstain from sexual intercourse until the infection has been eliminated from them and their sex partners.
If the cause is the herpes simplex virus, infection usually persists for life. Antiviral drugs can control but not cure these infections.
After being treated for 3 to 6 months, all women are tested again to determine whether the infection has been eradicated or is under control.