What is cervical erosion?

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 within the cervical canal. These cells appear red and swollen, but they are not cancerous, and the cervix itself is not literally eroded away. In general, this condition is very easy to treat as it usually resolves once the cause of the abnormal cell growth has been addressed.

Many people with cervical erosion experience no symptoms and learn about the condition during a routine pelvic exam. Sometimes, it is accompanied by abnormal bleeding or vaginal discharge. The problem with this condition is that since the columnar cells do not belong on the surface of the cervix, they can sometimes become infected, so routine pelvic exams are important as they allow doctors to detect such conditions early.

There are four primary potential causes for cervical erosion: pregnancy, chemical exposure, trauma, and infection. Pregnancy and the use of hormonal contraceptives appear to be related to the condition due to changes in the body's hormonal balance. Chemicals like 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 to 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 infections, or may be advised to rest from sexual activity and switch brands of lubricants, condoms, or spermicides. If the area has a chance to rest and recover, the normal squamous cells will usually begin to grow again, and the surface of the cervix will return to its usual state.

Cervical erosion is also known as cervical ectropion or cervical ectropia. It is important to remember that it is not cancerous, although some gynecological cancers can cause this condition. Women can reduce their 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 a gynecological problem.

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