Cervical erosion is a gynecological condition in which the squamous cells that normally cover the surface of the cervix are replaced with columnar cells from inside the cervical canal. These cells appear red and inflamed, but they are not cancerous, and the cervix itself does not literally erode. Generally, this condition is very easy to treat, as it usually resolves itself once the cause of the abnormal cell growth has been addressed.
Many people with cervical erosion do not experience symptoms, and they learn about the condition during a routine pelvic examination. Sometimes, it is accompanied with abnormal bleeding or a vaginal discharge. The issue with this condition is that, since the columnar cells do not belong on the surface of the cervix, they can sometimes become infected, which is why routine pelvic examinations are important, as they allow doctors to catch such conditions early.
There are four primary potential causes for cervical erosion: pregnancy, chemical exposure, trauma, and infection. Pregnancy and the use of hormonal birth control appear to be linked to the condition because of the changes in the hormonal balance of the body. Chemicals such as spermicide, some lubricants, and some douches can also irritate the surface of the cervix, causing this problem. Infections such as herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and pelvic inflammatory disease are also linked with cervical erosion, as is trauma such as a poorly-inserted speculum, or rough sexual activity.
Once a doctor identifies the cause, the condition can usually be resolved. Patients may be given medications to treat infection, or encouraged to take a rest from sexual activity and to change brands of lubricants, condoms, or spermicides. If the area is given a chance to rest and recover, the normal squamous cells will usually start growing again, and the surface of the cervix will return to its usual state.
Cervical erosion is also referred to as cervical ectroption or cervical ectropy. It is important to remember that it is not cancerous, although some gynecological cancers can cause this condition. Women can reduce the risk of developing this problem by using safe sex practices, getting regular gynecological checkups, and paying close attention to signs of infection and inflammation that could indicate the presence of a gynecological problem.