The medical term for cervical swelling is cervicitis. Cervicitis is common, affecting more than half of all women at some point in their lives. The most common cause of swelling is sexually transmitted infection, although it can be caused by other infections, such as bacterial vaginitis. Causes not attributed to infection include allergic reaction and irritation caused by foreign objects, such as cervical caps.
Symptoms of cervical swelling include abnormal vaginal bleeding, painful intercourse, unusual vaginal discharge, and vaginal pain. Some cases, particularly those associated with sexually transmitted infection, have no symptoms. Women at high risk for contracting sexually transmitted infections should be periodically tested for them, even if they are not experiencing symptoms.
Vaginal bleeding is abnormal if it occurs between periods, after menopause, or after intercourse. Some bleeding after intercourse is normal, and it does not necessarily mean that swelling is present. All cases of irregular bleeding should nevertheless be reported to a health care provider.
Unusual vaginal discharge has an unusual color, such as gray or green. It may also have a foul odor. A large amount of discharge is also abnormal, regardless of color or odor. Like vaginal bleeding, vaginal discharge does not necessarily indicate cervicitis, but a physician should be consulted.
A physician will diagnose the cause of cervical swelling using a pelvic exam and tests, such as one for infection. A sample of any discharge will be taken and analyzed, and a pap smear might be taken as well. Cervical biopsy is necessary in rare circumstances.
The treatment of cervicitis will depend on the cause. Antibiotics will be used for all bacterial infections, including bacterial vaginitis and sexually transmitted infections. If herpes is the cause, an antiviral drug may help. Yeast infection is treated with an antifungal pill or cream. In the case of infection, the woman's partner may need to be treated as well to prevent reinfection. Postmenopausal women might need hormonal supplements.
If there is no infection present, the provider will attempt to pinpoint another cause. If a device such as a cervical cap is used, or if the patient has changed personal hygiene products, these products should be discontinued to see if the symptoms cease. If no cause is found, a biopsy may be done to look for a cause.
Sometimes, cervical swelling does not go away even when these treatments are used. Cervicitis may last for years if it does not respond to treatment of the underlying issue. Cryosurgery, or freezing, can be used to destroy some of the cervical tissue. Lasers and electrocauterization also work for this purpose.