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Oluwatosin Goje

, MD, MSCR, Cleveland Clinic, Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University

Last review/revision Apr 2021 | Modified Sep 2022
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Cervicitis is infectious or noninfectious inflammation of the cervix. Findings may include vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding, and cervical erythema and friability. Women are tested for infectious causes of vaginitis and pelvic inflammatory disease and are usually treated empirically for chlamydial infection and gonorrhea.

Etiology of Cervicitis

The most common infectious cause of cervicitis is Chlamydia trachomatis Chlamydia and Mycoplasmal Mucosal Infections Sexually transmitted urethritis, cervicitis, proctitis, and pharyngitis (that are not due to gonorrhea) are caused predominantly by chlamydiae and less frequently by mycoplasmas. Chlamydiae... read more Chlamydia and Mycoplasmal Mucosal Infections , followed by Neisseria gonorrhea Gonorrhea Gonorrhea is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It typically infects epithelia of the urethra, cervix, rectum, pharynx, or conjunctivae, causing irritation or pain and purulent... read more Gonorrhea ; they are sexually transmitted Overview of Sexually Transmitted Infections Sexually transmitted infection (STI) refers to infection with a pathogen that is transmitted through blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or other body fluids during oral, anal, or genital sex with... read more . Other causes include herpes simplex virus Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Infections Herpes simplex viruses (human herpesviruses types 1 and 2) commonly cause recurrent infection affecting the skin, mouth, lips, eyes, and genitals. Common severe infections include encephalitis... read more Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Infections (HSV), Trichomonas vaginalis, and Mycoplasma genitalium. Often, a pathogen cannot be identified. The cervix may also be inflamed as part of vaginitis (eg, bacterial vaginosis Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) Bacterial vaginosis is vaginitis due to a complex alteration of vaginal flora in which lactobacilli decrease and anaerobic pathogens overgrow. Symptoms include a gray, thin, fishy-smelling vaginal... read more Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) , trichomoniasis Trichomoniasis Trichomoniasis is infection of the vagina or male genital tract with Trichomonas vaginalis. It can be asymptomatic or cause urethritis, vaginitis, or occasionally cystitis, epididymitis... read more ).

Noninfectious causes of cervicitis include gynecologic procedures, foreign bodies (eg, pessaries, barrier contraceptive devices), chemicals (eg, in douches or contraceptive creams), and allergens (eg, latex).

Symptoms and Signs of Cervicitis

Cervicitis may not cause symptoms. The most common symptoms are vaginal discharge and vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods or after coitus. Some women have dyspareunia, vulvar and/or vaginal irritation, and/or dysuria.

Examination findings can include purulent or mucopurulent discharge, cervical friability (eg, bleeding after touching the cervix with a swab), and cervical erythema and edema.

Diagnosis of Cervicitis

  • Clinical findings

  • Testing for vaginitis and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Cervicitis is diagnosed if women have cervical exudate (purulent or mucopurulent) or cervical friability.

Findings that suggest a specific cause or other disorders include the following:

  • Fever: pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or HSV infection

  • Cervical motion tenderness: PID

  • Vesicles, vulvar or vaginal pain, and/or ulceration: HSV infection

  • Punctate hemorrhages (strawberry spots): Trichomoniasis

Treatment of Cervicitis

  • Usually empiric treatment for chlamydial infection and gonorrhea

At the first visit, most women with acute cervicitis should be treated for chlamydial infection empirically, particularly if they have risk factors for STIs (eg, age < 25, new or multiple sex partners, unprotected sex) or if follow-up cannot be ensured. Women should also be treated empirically for gonorrhea if they have risk factors for STIs, if local prevalence is high (eg, > 5%), or if follow-up cannot be ensured.

Treatment of cervicitis consists of the following:

  • Chlamydial infection: Azithromycin 1 g orally once or with doxycycline 100 mg orally twice a day for 7 days

  • Gonorrhea: Ceftriaxone 500 mg IM once for patients weighing < 150 kg (300 lb) or 1g IM once for patients weighing > 150 kg ( > 300 lb) plus azithromycin 1 g orally once (due to emerging resistance of N. gonorrhoeae to cephalosporins)

Once the cause or causes are identified based on the results of microbiologic testing, subsequent treatment is adjusted accordingly.

If cervicitis persists despite this treatment, reinfection with chlamydiae and N. gonorrhoeae should be ruled out, and empiric treatment with moxifloxacin 400 mg orally once a day for 7 to 14 days (eg, for 10 days) should be started to cover possible M. genitalium infection.

If the cause is a bacterial STI, sex partners should be tested and treated simultaneously. Women should abstain from sexual intercourse until the infection has been eliminated from them and their sex partners.

All women with confirmed chlamydial infection or gonorrhea should be tested between 3 and 6 months after treatment because reinfection is common.

Key Points

  • Acute cervicitis is usually caused by an STI and can presage PID.

  • Infection may be asymptomatic.

  • Test women for chlamydial infection, gonorrhea, bacterial vaginosis, and trichomoniasis.

  • Treat most women for chlamydial infection and gonorrhea at the first visit.

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