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Cervicitis often sexually transmitted

Anthony L. Komaroff Universal Uclick

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor diagnosed me with cervicitis. What is this? And how did I get it?

DEAR READER: Cervicitis is an inflammation and irritation of the cervix, the doughnut-shaped opening to the uterus. Cervicitis is usually caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Most common are chlamydia and gonorrhea. Trichomoniasis and genital herpes can also cause the condition. In some cases, cervicitis may result from trauma, frequent douching or exposure to chemical irritants.

Cervicitis often causes no symptoms. When they do occur, symptoms can include pain during intercourse. If the same germ that is causing inflammation of the cervix also causes irritation of the walls of the vagina, you may have vaginal itching. You may have a bloody vaginal discharge or vaginal spotting or bleeding between periods. If the urethra (urine tube) also becomes infected, you may feel burning when you urinate or you may urinate more often.

Cervicitis can spread to your uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries. This is called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). If you have PID, you may have abdominal pain or fever.

To diagnose the condition, your doctor will do a pelvic exam to look at your cervix.

During the pelvic exam, your doctor will take a sample of discharge or pus from your cervical opening. The sample will be tested in a laboratory to determine if you have an STI.

Treatment will depend on whether you have an infection and, if so, what type. Gonorrhea, for example, is usually treated with an injected antibiotic. For chlamydia or trichomoniasis, you will take antibiotics by mouth. Cervicitis caused by trauma or an intrauterine device (IUD) is also treated with an antibiotic. If you have genital herpes, your doctor will prescribe an antiviral medication.

Once cervicitis is diagnosed and you have started treatment, your symptoms should start to improve within a few days. Inflammation should start to heal within days. Because cervicitis is usually caused by an STI, it is important to use a condom every time you have sex.

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