As one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), HPV has many different strains that can cause different reactions in the body. Just as you can fight off a cold or flu virus, sometimes your immune system can ward off HPV before it does any harm.
If you do contract HPV, you may not have any symptoms at all. The most common expression of the HPV virus is warts, which may appear on the genitals, hands, feet, or other areas of the body.
Some strains of HPV also cause cervical cancer or cervical dysplasia, a condition that indicates the presence of abnormal cells in the cervix or uterus. Left untreated, cervical dysplasia can sometimes develop into cancer.
At Capital Women’s Care, the team of OB/GYN and women’s wellness physicians offer services to diagnose and treat HPV. Pap smears -- which you should get every year between 21 and 29 and every three years after 30 if you’ve never had an abnormal result-- are the primary method for revealing HPV.
If you have a strain of HPV that is considered “high risk” for cervical dysplasia or cancer, you may need follow-up tests. Your physician might also advise you to have more frequent Pap smears to monitor whether or not the HPV is causing precancerous changes in your cervix.
To treat warts caused by the HPV virus, your physician can prescribe medicated ointments, or she might suggest a surgical procedure to remove them.
Since HPV is sexually transmitted through vaginal and anal intercourse, practicing safe sex can reduce your chances of contracting the virus. Use latex condoms and, ideally, engaging in a monogamous relationship reduces potential exposure to HPV.
You can also talk to your physician about an HPV vaccine such as Gardasil™, which can protect you against the virus if you have not yet been exposed.
If you’re between the ages of 21 and 65, make sure to also get HPV screening by getting your regular Pap smear test.
When caught early, HPV is usually very treatable, but prevention is the best approach when it comes to this widespread virus.
If you are in any way you concerned about HPV, schedule an appointment with one of our physicians today.