Cervicitis is the inflammation of the cervix or lower end of the uterus that opens into the vagina. This is where menstrual blood exists the uterus. The most common cause of cervicitis is a viral or bacterial infection that can be sexually transmitted.
Cervicitis is either acute or chronic and acute cervicitis usually derives from a sexually transmitted infection such as chlamydia, genital herpes, human papillomavirus, or gonorrhea and can last for several months.
Cervicitis can also be caused by an allergy to spermicide or condom latex, a diaphragm or cervical cap, or sensitivity to the chemicals present in tampons.
Cervicitis causes abnormal vaginal bleeding, vaginal pain, backaches, a feeling of pelvic pressure, gray or pale yellow vaginal discharge, painful sexual intercourse, and difficult, painful, or frequent urination.
Acute cervicitis is usually caused by an infection of the cervix. Often, the infection is caused by a sexually transmitted infection. Chlamydia and gonorrhea tend to be the most common STIs to be associated with cervicitis, but it’s also possible for herpes, genital warts, trichomoniasis and mycoplasma genitalium to cause it too.
In some instances, cervicitis can be caused by an infection introduced by a foreign body. Cervical caps, diaphragms, and pessaries are particularly common causes of cervicitis. It is also possible for these items to cause irritation to the cervix and subsequent cervicitis, rather than an infection.
Sometimes allergic reactions can cause cervicitis. Some women are allergic to spermicides, which may be used alongside cervical caps and diaphragms as a birth control method. It’s also possible to be allergic to the latex in condoms. Similarly, exposure to chemicals such as those found in lubricants or intimate hygiene products can cause inflammation and irritation to the cervix.
Treatment usually involves antibiotics to kill infections and in severe cases of cervicitis doctors may use cryosurgery or apply silver nitrate when there is damage to the cervical cells. Cryosurgery is used to freeze abnormal cells in the cervix in order to kill them.
Silver nitrate can also kill abnormal cells within the cervix. Without treatment cervicitis can last for years. Doctors may also recommend that partners be treated in order to avoid reinfection and that sexual intercourse is avoided until after treatment has been completed.
Cervicitis caused by infections can be prevented by avoiding unprotected sex. Condoms help to prevent the transmission of STIs during intercourse, but they cannot prevent transmission during foreplay or oral sex. For this reason, it’s important to undergo regular sexual health screenings to identify and treat STIs early before they cause cervicitis.
Those who use pessaries, cervical caps and diaphragms should follow the hygiene practices recommended for their device as this will reduce the risk of introducing an infection. If the device tends to cause irritation and chronic cervicitis, it may be necessary to consult a doctor or gynecologist for an alternative.
Finally, those who have known allergies to chemicals, spermicides or latex should take great care to avoid their triggers. Gentle, unscented lubricants and intimate hygiene products are recommended to those who are sensitive to chemicals.