What is cervicitis and what causes it?
The cervix is a narrow passage that connects the uterus and vagina. Every month, menstrual blood comes out of the uterus through the cervix and into the vagina. When a woman has a baby, the cervix expands to allow the baby to move into the birth canal.
If something irritates the cervix and it becomes inflamed, the condition is called cervicitis. This article explores the symptoms, causes, and treatments, including natural remedies for this condition.
Cervicitis may cause irritation during sex or cervical examinations.
Symptoms of cervicitis may include:
- vaginal itching or irritation
- bleeding between periods
- pain when having sex
- bleeding after sex
- pain during a cervical exam
- frequent and painful urination
- unusual gray or white discharge that may smell
- a pressurized feeling in the pelvis
- lower back pain
- abdominal pain
Some women may not experience any symptoms when they have cervicitis. Severe cervicitis may lead to a thick, yellow or green vaginal discharge that resembles pus.
Cases of cervicitis may be mild or severe. Cervicitis is often caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as:
Other causes of cervicitis include:
- Allergies: If someone is allergic to spermicides, douches, or latex in condoms, these may cause the cervix to become inflamed.
- Irritation: Inserting tampons, pessaries, or diaphragms may irritate or injure the cervix. Cervicitis may also develop if these items are left in place longer than directed.
- Bacterial imbalance: If harmful bacteria overwhelm the healthful bacteria in the vagina, this may cause bacterial vaginosis. An inflamed cervix may be a symptom of this.
- Pregnancy: This can affect hormone levels and lead to cervicitis as the cervix is much more sensitive at this time.
- Cancer or cancer treatment: Treatments for cancer or advanced stages of cervical cancer itself may affect cervical tissue. This is rare but may lead to symptoms of cervicitis.
Cervicitis may be either acute or chronic. Acute cervicitis is typically caused by an infection and is best treated medically.
Chronic cervicitis is not typically caused by an infection. Symptoms may be milder but last longer. Some people may want to treat chronic cervicitis at home, using natural remedies that will complement medical treatments.
However, it is essential to discuss this strategy with a healthcare provider to ensure the person receives the correct treatment.
The treatments for cervicitis will be based on cause.
Doctors commonly prescribe antibiotics as a treatment for cervicitis. These drugs help to clear the infection, which helps to treat symptoms.
If cervicitis is caused by an STI, the doctor can advise on the best course of treatments. STIs are often treatable with antibiotics.
If a foreign body is irritating the cervix, a doctor will remove the object and may prescribe antibiotics.
Natural treatment options
Acute cervicitis that is caused by an infection is best treated medically, as it is essential to clear up the infection.
If a woman has chronic cervicitis with mild symptoms, she may choose to use home remedies to help ease the symptoms.
A person should always use home remedies alongside medical treatments. They are not intended to replace them.
Home remedies that may help treat cervicitis include:
- Traditional Chinese medicine: A 2014 study found that traditional Chinese medicinal treatments, including specific Chinese herbs, may be effective in the treatment of cervicitis. The herbs were reported to have an anti-inflammatory effect.
- Eating yogurt or taking probiotic supplements: Yogurt contains healthful bacteria called probiotics. Probiotics are also available in supplement form and are available to buy online. A 2014 study suggests that probiotics may help treat bacterial vaginosis, which is one cause of cervicitis.
- Eating garlic or taking a garlic supplement: Garlic has strong antibacterial properties. Another 2014 study found that taking garlic supplements may also help treat bacterial vaginosis.
It is a good idea to seek a diagnosis and advice from a doctor before deciding on a course of treatment. These alternative treatments need further studies as they are not considered first-line treatment for cervicitis or vaginal infections at this time.
Home remedies that support vaginal and cervical health and may prevent cervicitis include:
- Drinking green tea: A 2014 study suggested green tea may have a protective role in reducing the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers.
- Avoiding irritants: Avoiding douches, tampons, diaphragms, and scented soaps reduces the risk of irritation.
- Wearing loose cotton underwear: Breathable underwear reduces the buildup of moisture and bacteria that can lead to infection.
- Using condoms during sex: This reduces the risk of STIs, one of the leading causes of cervicitis.
A pelvic exam may be performed to diagnose cervicitis.
If a woman thinks that she may have cervicitis, it is a good idea to see a doctor to get a full diagnosis.
The doctor will carry out a pelvic exam to examine the cervix and may take a swab. This helps the doctor to collect cells and fluids. These may be tested for abnormalities or examined under a microscope.
To reach a full diagnosis, the doctor may also test for STIs. Treating these may heal the inflammation.
If left untreated, cervicitis may lead to complications. These may include:
- pelvic inflammatory disease
- ectopic pregnancy, where a fertilized egg implants outside of the womb
- chronic pelvic pain
Cervicitis is typically treatable. Home treatments and prevention strategies should be used alongside, not instead of, medical treatment.
Acute cervicitis caused by infections is best treated medically to avoid complications.
If someone thinks they may have cervicitis, they should speak to their doctor.
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