Cervicitis, a common infection of the lower genital tract, is the inflammation of thecervix (this is the neck and outlet of a woman's uterus).
Inflammation may be caused by infection from certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or by injury to the cervix from a foreign object inserted in thevagina, from birth control devices such as the cervical cap or a diaphragm, or bycancer.
Many cases of cervicitis go untreated because women who have the infection do not know they do. Often there are no obvious symptoms.
If untreated, cervicitis may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, ectopic pregnancy, chronic pelvic pain, spontaneous abortion, cervical cancer, or other complications during the delivery of a baby.
Cervicitis is a very common condition. In fact, more than half of all women may develop cervicitis at some point in their adult lives. Risk factors for the development of cervicitis include starting intercourse at an early age, high-risk sexual behaviors, a history of sexually transmitted diseases, and having multiple sex partners.
In the mildest form of cervicitis, you may not notice any symptoms at all.
The first symptom of cervicitis likely will be a vaginal discharge that becomes more pronounced immediately following yourmenstrual period.
Other signs include the following:
- Irritation of the external genitals.
- Pain during intercourse.
- Bleeding or spotting after sexual intercourse or between periods.
- A burning sensation during urination.
- Lower back pain or pain low in the abdomen, sometimes felt only during sexual intercourse.
A more severe case of cervicitis can cause a profuse, almost puslike, discharge with an unpleasant odor, accompanied by intense vaginal itchiness or abdominal pain.
If the infection gets into your system, you may also have fever, nausea, andabdominal pain.
If symptoms continue after antibiotic therapy, the inflamed area of the cervix may be cauterized by electrocoagulation (heat), cryotherapy (freezing), or laser treatment to destroy the infected tissue.
Such therapies are rarely used because antibiotics are highly effective in treating cervicitis and surgeries can cause complications such as cervical stenosis (closed opening) and cervical incompetence (weak cervix that can open in pregnancy and lead topremature birth).
If you have prolonged or repeated bouts of cervicitis, your doctor may recommend a procedure designed to destroy the abnormal cells on the surface of your cervix. The most common procedures are cautery (heat therapy), cryosurgery (freeze therapy), or laser treatment. Again, such therapies are infrequently used.