The cervix is the narrow end of the uterus, and it is located between the bladder and the rectum. The cervix forms a passageway that opens into the vagina and leads to the outside of the body, according to the Ohio State University Medical Center. When the cervix begins inflamed, it can lead to abnormal vaginal bleeding. This condition is referred to as cervicitis.
Normally, the cervix acts as a protective barrier that prevents bacteria and other potentially harmful substances from traveling from the vagina and into the uterus. In some cases, a significant amount of bacteria or harmful substances can make their way into the body and overwhelm the cervix. This causes the cervix to become inflamed. According to MayoClinic.com, the most common cause of the bacterial overgrowth that causes cervicitis is sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia and genital herpes. Another cause of cervicitis is an allergic reaction that occurs as a result of exposure to latex or spermicides.
One of the most common symptoms of cervical inflammation is abnormal vaginal bleeding. Abnormal bleeding can be defined as bleeding after sexual intercourse, bleeding between periods or bleeding after menopause. In addition to bleeding, cervicitis can cause abnormal vaginal discharge. This discharge may be gray, white or yellow or have a foul odor, according to Medline Plus. Cervicitis is also characterized by pain during sexual intercourse, vaginal pain, pressure and pain in the pelvis and frequent, painful urination.
If cervicitis is caused by a bacterial infection, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia, it can usually be successfully treated. Inflammation of the cervix caused by herpes infections require treatment with anti-viral medications. Abnormal bleeding can usually be controlled with hormonal therapy that includes estrogen and progesterone. If medications are ineffective for cervicitis, surgical procedures may be necessary. These surgical procedures can involve freezing cervical cells, burning the end of the cervix or the use of lasers.
There are a number of stops that can be involved to reduce the risk of developing cervicitis. Avoiding feminine cleansing products, such as douches, can help decrease vaginal irritation. Ensuring that tampons are inserted properly and changed as often as recommended can also reduce the risk of developing cervicitis. Although abstinence is the only way to absolutely prevent the development of cervicitis from sexually transmitted diseases, the use of condoms can lower the risk of infection.
If left untreated, cervicitis that is caused by gonorrhea or chlamydia can lead to a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease, according to MayoClinic.com. Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection that includes the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries as well as the cervix and has the potential to permanently destroy the female reproductive organs.
It is important to note that although a majority of cases of abnormal bleeding with cervical inflammation occur as a result of a bacterial infection, abnormal bleeding can occasionally signal a more serious medical condition, such as cervical cancer. Always make an appointment to get checked by a doctor if any abnormal bleeding occurs to determine the underlying cause.