The Many Causes of Chronic Cervicitis
Anyone who has read my past articles might remember my endometriosis story and the long process of receiving a diagnosis. While I was under anesthesia for my diagnostic laparoscopy and dilation and curettage procedure (D&C), my gynecologist noticed my cervix was severely inflamed.
While this might not have been a cause for concern, given my symptoms and menstrual complications, my doctor decided to investigate further.
How do I know I have it?
Inflammation of the cervix, also known as chronic cervicitis, is a physical characteristic of the cervix typically discovered during a pelvic exam. Depending on your specific health condition, your doctor may swab your cervix to test for common infections that could cause said inflammation.
The combination of my symptoms—cervical inflammation, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids and heavy bleeding—was a concern for my doctor, especially because the cervical inflammation had developed since my pelvic exam the month prior. After weighing all the factors, my doctor decided to take a tissue sample during my D&C to rule out cancer.
Inflammation of the cervix, also known as chronic cervicitis, is a physical characteristic of the cervix typically discovered during a pelvic exam.
Overall, my doctor wasn't concerned about the inflammation.
Receiving a diagnosis of "squamous metaplasia and acute and chronic endocervicitis" was not a finding I had anticipated, but my doctor ruled out cancer, as my cysts were benign, and the D&C went smoothly. However, my pathology report was baffling.
I wanted answers, but the next available appointment with my gynecologist wasn't for another three months. While researching these conditions brought me comfort, it also sprouted more questions.
I learned squamous metaplasia was a classification for the type of cells found in the tissue sample, and according to the American Urological Association, this tissue type is "common in 85 percent of women of reproductive age." The chronic endocervicitis, while not something to be too concerned about, was more of a mystery.
There are many causes for cervical inflammation, the most common of which is simply irritation. Unfortunately, many feminine hygiene products, such as douches, tampons, spermicides and even lubricants, can cause cervical inflammation.
I learned chronic cervicitis wasn't something to be alarmed about and instead was an indication that something in my vaginal hygiene or sexual health should be checked.
Chronic cervicitis may simply indicate an underlying infection that may not render any obvious symptoms. We can't look at our cervix to know something is wrong, but, of course, this is another reason why your annual gynecologist appointment, pelvic exam, Pap smear and STI screening are so essential for monitoring and maintaining your sexual health.
Even if you are in a monogamous relationship, you need to get tested, as STIs can take time to show symptoms. You could have contracted an STI before you met your current partner—perhaps even several years prior—and you would never know.
While chronic cervicitis isn't an STI, experts are debating what conditions could cause this to happen. Some experts believe chronic cervicitis is an indicator for chronic diseases, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or the presence of the human papillomavirus (HPV).
What is clear, though, is this condition, when chronic, should be monitored regularly. And once the underlying condition is identified and treated, your inflammation should subside.
Treatment and prevention
Once your doctor has diagnosed cervical inflammation, it's not uncommon to be prescribed antibiotics while your doctor waits for the results of your swabs. As soon as my doctor identified the inflammation, he prescribed intravenous clindamycin to treat a potential infection before I left the hospital in an effort to prevent any postoperative infections.
Regardless of the cause of your cervical inflammation, you should speak with your doctor about your sexual and hygienic practices. You may learn during this conversation that your vaginal hygiene products or prophylactics are causing your cervical inflammation. Using glycerin-free lubricants and hypoallergenic condoms, and avoiding douching, can help to prevent these vaginal and cervical complications.
The best advice when treating any gynecological condition is to be your own advocate and pay attention to your body.
Ultimately, you may never learn the cause of your cervicitis. All of my test results came back negative, and after my follow-up, my inflammation had reduced. My doctor encouraged me to closely monitor my vaginal health in the coming months and increased my well-visits to every six months.
The best advice when treating any gynecological condition is to be your own advocate and pay attention to your body. Monitor your monthly cycle and give close attention to any changes in your menstruation and to other bodily symptoms that may be benign on their own but could be an indication of a larger condition.
The most important thing you can do is to ask questions of credible sources. Because every health condition is unique, your doctor is the best source for any decisions regarding your health.