What is cervicitis?

Cervicitis is an irritation or infection of the cervix. A number of different organisms can cause it. Cervicitis symptoms may start suddenly and may be severe. Or it can last several months or longer.

What causes cervicitis?

Cervicitis may be caused by a number of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including:

  • Gonorrhea
  • Chlamydia
  • Herpes
  • Trichomoniasis

Cervicitis may also be caused by vaginal infections, such as bacterial vaginosis.

It's often confused with vaginitis.

What are the symptoms of cervicitis?

Each woman’s symptoms may vary. These are the most common symptoms of cervicitis:

  • Discharge that contains pus
  • Pelvic pain
  • Bleeding between periods or after sex
  • Urinary problems

Infections within the vagina are easily passed to the cervix. Then the tissue of the cervix can become inflamed and form an open sore. One early sign of this is a pus-like vaginal discharge.

The symptoms of cervicitis may look like other conditions or health problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is cervicitis diagnosed?

Along with a complete medical history and physical and pelvic exam, you may also be tested for STIs, and bacterial vaginosis. Your healthcare provider will also check for pelvic inflammatory disease. 

How is cervicitis treated?

Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

Treatment aims to reduce symptoms and prevent spread of infection. Treatment may include:

  • Antibiotics (to kill infecting organisms)
  • Treatment of sexual partners

What are possible complications of cervicitis?

If not treated, the organisms that cause cervicitis can move up into the uterus and fallopian tubes. This can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can lead to infertility and peritonitis, a life-threatening infection. The organisms can also be passed to sexual partners who can have serious complications.

Key points about cervicitis

  • Cervicitis is an irritation or infection of the cervix.
  • It's often caused by sexually transmitted infections or bacterial vaginosis.
  • Symptoms may include discharge that contains pus, pelvic pain, bleeding between periods or after sex, or urinary problems.
  • If untreated, the organisms causing cervicitis may move up into the uterus and fallopian tubes. This can cause pelvic inflammatory disease.
  • Treatment for cervicitis includes antibiotics. Sexual partners must also be treated.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.
  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
  • Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
  • Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.
Medical Reviewer: Daniel N Sacks MD
Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Medical Reviewer: Heather M Trevino BSN RNC
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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