Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 79 million adolescents and young adults harbor the HPV infection that can lead to genital warts and cervical cancer. The team at Commonwealth OB-GYN in Brookline Village, Brookline, Massachusetts, provides education about HPV and can discuss the preventive measures you can take. Call or book an appointment to learn more about HPV.
HPV is a common infection typically transmitted through sexual contact. It’s a silent virus, meaning you may not show symptoms or even be aware you are carrying the virus. As a result, you can unknowingly transmit HPV to your sexual partners.
In most instances, your immune system eliminates HPV from your body. In some cases, however, persistent infection can increase the risk of precancerous and cancerous lesions of the cervix, anus, mouth, and upper respiratory tract.
Genital warts can also occur from HPV. These warts typically appear in the genital area as a small bump or group of bumps and can be flat, raised or shaped like cauliflower.
Diagnosis of HPV is usually based on the presence of genital warts or from an abnormal Pap test, which detects precancerous lesions. Recent advances in molecular biology allow for more direct HPV DNA testing recommended for screening for certain individuals.
Genital warts often go away by themselves as your body rids itself of the virus. However, because of symptoms or their appearance, some patients prefer to be treated.
Depending on the size and location of genital warts, your physician may recommend patient-applied topical creams, physician-applied therapies or surgical removal. Treatments can get rid of warts, but there’s no treatment to get rid of the virus. Because the virus remains in your body, warts may come back after treatment.
Young girls and women aged 9-26 should get an HPV vaccine to protect against many strains of HPV. The vaccine is also recommended for boys and men aged 11-26. The HPV vaccines help prevent genital warts, cervical cancer, and some anal cancers and decrease the spread of HPV to sexual partners.
You can also prevent an HPV infection by avoiding direct contact with the virus. If you or your sexual partner has warts that you can see in the genital area, you should not have sex until the warts are treated. If you know you have HPV, even if there are no warts, you should let your partner know before you have sexual contact.
During sex, use protection that covers the skin, like latex condoms, dental dams, and latex surgical gloves. These preventative measures help but are not 100% effective against HPV, because they may not cover all of the infected areas (such as the skin around the groin). However, it is always a good idea to use them to protect yourself from other STDs, including the virus that causes AIDS.
The Commonwealth OB-GYN team is highly knowledgeable about the prevention, diagnosis, and management of HPV. The physicians spend time with you to explain the virus and best treatment plan for you. Call the office to book a consultation today.