The statistics show that those who become sexually active are at a very high risk of becoming infected with HPV.
The World Health Organization states that over 290 million women are currently infected with the HPV infection.
We hope that got your attention!
What is HPV?
If you visit your gynecologist on a routine basis or have paid attention to the ads on TV, you have probably heard of the human papillomavirus (HPV).
HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STI) due to its being a highly contagious virus.
How do you get HPV?
It is easily transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, usually by the genitals, and through sexual activity, including oral, vaginal and anal sex.
Another reason why this STI is so common is that it does not always come with symptoms. An individual may have HPV but the infection is lying dormant, only to be passed to another individual without knowing it.
In this instance, the individual with dormant HPV is known as the carrier, transmitting the infection to whomever he or she is sexually active with.
What are the symptoms of HPV?
The most common symptom is warts or lesions on the skin. These can appear anywhere on the skin, but most often around the genitals.
Warts will manifest to look like a bump on the skin or a cluster of bumps. Some have similar textures looking like cauliflower.
With 200 different types of HPV infection, only 14 develop into more harmful health issues.
Is HPV serious?
In most cases, HPV infections are combated by the body’s own immune system before any symptoms occur. Most don’t even know they have human papillomavirus until a pap smear to screen for cervical cancer comes back abnormal.
The screening will show that there are changes or mutations of the cervical cells. These cells would then be tested to see if they are precancerous.
Dr. Gregory Poland, the director of the Vaccine Research Group at Mayo Clinic, explains that the outcome of contracting this STI could lead to genital warts or seven different types of cancers.
High-risk HPV means the individual is at more of a risk of cancer.
Both men and women can get the HPV infection and are at risk of getting cancer, such as cancer of the throat, vagina, cervix, vulva, anus or penis.
With the risk of HPV developing into cancer, yes this STI can become serious.
Keep reading to learn how to prevent and if there is a cure for HPV…
How do you prevent HPV?
HPV is known as the leading cause of cervical cancer. In 2006, the FDA approved the first vaccine, called Gardasil, to prevent and protect against the human papillomavirus.
Reported at Independent.co.uk, HPV types 16 and 18 are the strands linked to over half of cervical cancer cases. Clinical trials have shown an 83% decrease of these HPV strands in girls ages 13-19, and a 66% decrease in women of 20-24 years of age.
For the best outcome and protection, medical advice for both boys and girls is to get the vaccine before they become sexually active.
The HPV vaccine is most effective when received in the pre-teen years and before HPV is contracted. However, it is recommended that the vaccine be given to males and females ages 9-45.
How is HPV Diagnosed?
Pap smears and cervical screenings are recommended for women age 21 to 65. The pap smear will collect cells from the cervix to be examined for precancerous or cancerous cells, which will show on a screening as abnormal cells.
If you are experiencing genital warts or bumps around the genital area, your doctor may apply a vinegar solution to the area to determine if it is human papillomavirus. If the lesions turn white then it is a confirmed diagnosis.
Is There an HPV Cure?
If you had a pap smear result confirming abnormal cells and your gynecologist confirmed that it is HPV, or that you are at risk of getting HPV, you are probably wondering, what’s next?
Your doctor has probably told you of the risks involved with HPV infections, such as genital warts or how it can be linked to cancer if the abnormal cells are precancerous and aren’t treated.
Hearing about the risks can be daunting, and while there is no cure for HPV, there are ways to effectively treat it.
What is the best treatment for HPV?
In most cases, the body is able to ward off the human papillomavirus within a 2-year time period without the intervention of medicine.
In the instance your body does not combat the virus, there are effective treatments for genital warts and precancerous cervical lesions, also known as abnormal cells from your cervix.
Your doctor will provide medical procedures to best treat your condition.
Treatment for the cervix include:
A colposcopy is a medical procedure that uses a colposcope to get a closer look at your cervix. Your doctor will take a sample piece of tissue from your cervix for analysis of abnormal cells and lesions.
If precancerous lesions are present, removing them from your cervix is necessary. Your women’s health specialist will perform either one of the following procedures to remove the layer of tissue on the cervix with the lesions:
- Cryosurgery – freezing the tissue layer
- Laser removal
- Surgical removal
- Loop Electrosurgical Excision – using an electrically charged wire to remove the tissue
- Cold-knife Conization – removes a cone-shape layer of tissue
Once the cervix is healed you will return to the women’s health clinic for a repeat pap smear to check the cells of the cervix to make sure they are normal.
Treatment for genital warts include topical solutions:
Your doctor may prescribe a topical cream that will help to boost immunity against the virus that causes warts. There is also a prescription cream that was created to destroy the wart tissue in the event of an outbreak.
Over the counter options include salicylic acid, used to remove layers of the wart, and trichloroacetic acid, for a chemoablation method to burn off the wart(s).
If deemed necessary by your doctor, warts can also be removed surgically.
Again, this is not a cure but a solution to the problem at hand as it arises.
Your Women Health Care Needs are Important to Discuss with Your OBGYN
Protecting your health and those whom you love is often a priority on the list.
It is highly advised that you talk with your women’s health specialist about getting the HPV vaccine to protect against cancer and genital warts caused by this STI.
We know this is a sensitive topic and it affects so many in the female population.
We encourage you to leave a response below or to ask any questions that may have come up with reading this article.
Do you know someone who could benefit from this information? Please share. Our goal is to increase awareness of this issue.
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