Have you had your Pap smear done, FNites? If you are or have been sexually active, make sure that you get one every year. It reveals the condition of the cervix, which can help detect the early onset of cervical cancer. Results can also show the signs of an infection, such as cervicitis, a common gynecological problem that studies say up to half of all women experience once in their lifetime.


WHAT IS CERVICITIS?

Cervicitis is an inflammation (pamamaga) of the cervix. The cervix is about 2 to 3 cm long, found at the inner end of the vagina, and it acts like a gate to the uterus. It feels like the tip of your nose but becomes very soft during childbirth and opens up to allow the fetus to exit the womb. Inflammation happens when the body tries to protect itself from injury, irritation, or infection. That’s why, in cervicitis, the cervix looks red rather than pale pink and there may be an unusual discharge or bleeding, vaginal itchiness, a feeling of heaviness, lower abdominal pain, and pain during intercourse. It is not unusual, however, for the woman to feel no symptoms at all. 


WHAT CAUSES IT?

Cervicitis can be caused by several things including infections like herpes virus (which causes genital herpes), human papilloma virus (genital warts), and yeast infections. It can also be a reaction to a chemical like a vaginal douche; a reaction to a birth control device inserted into the vagina like a diaphragm; an allergy to a spermicide or to latex in condoms; irritation from a foreign object, like a forgotten tampon. Other causes include intercourse at a very early age, having many sexual partners, or injury during intercourse.


HOW SERIOUS IS IT?


Knowing how you got cervicitis will help you determine how serious it is. If it’s due to an irritating chemical or product, then stopping its use will quickly alleviate the symptoms. If it’s an infection caused by a sexually transmitted disease, discuss this with your partner as he may need treatment too.

After you’re done with the medication your doctor gave you, go for a follow-up checkup. Your doctor will want to see if the cervix has improved and whether further medication is necessary. If your cervicitis lasts for a long time, or if it recurs frequently, your doctor will consider other treatment modalities.


Want to learn how to prevent cervicitis? Scroll through the gallery below.

Read these articles for more sexual health-related information:
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(First published in Good Housekeeping Magazine, Good Health section as "Health Check" in March 2007; adapted for use on Female Network)

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