If you are sexually active, you could be at risk for the human papillomavirus, simply known as HPV. That’s because HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI), and although it is usually harmless and often goes away by itself, there are more than 200 strains of the virus. Some of these strains can cause various diseases, including genital warts and – in the case of HPC types 16 and 18 – cervical cancer.
What’s especially troubling is that many of those infected with HPV do not develop any symptoms but can nonetheless infect others through sexual contact. When symptoms are present, they are generally in the form of warts on the skin, such as on the arms, chest, hands, or feet. Genital HPV can manifest itself on mucous membranes, such as the vagina, anus, mouth, and throat.
The more you know about HPV, the better equipped you are to protect yourself against this frequently overlooked yet potentially deadly disease.
Your Risk of Contracting HPV
There are two main groups of HPV:
- Low-risk HPV – So named because they rarely cause cancer, these types of HPV can cause warts on and around the genitals and anus of both men and women, as well as on the cervix and in the vagina.
- High-risk HPV – These types of HPV can lead to cancer. In fact, HPV 16 and 18 are responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancer and precancerous cervical lesions.
HPV infection is quite common, because it can be passed from one individual to another through skin-to-skin contact, mostly through sexual activity, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex. It can also be spread through genital contact without sexual activity, although this is rare. Although infection is more likely if you have many sex partners, all it takes is one person to transmit the disease.
Fortunately, you cannot get HPV from a toilet seat, swimming in a pool, using a public hot tub, sharing food or utensils, or merely hugging or holding hands. Nevertheless, you can contract the virus even if it has been years since you have had sex.
The best ways to prevent, detect, and/or treat HPV include:
- Getting tested for the human papillomavirus that can lead to cervical cancer in women and warts, unusual growths, lumps, or sores in men.
- Getting vaccinated to protect against infection by certain types of HPV, including HPV types 16 and 18.
- Using condoms, which can protect both men and women from infection.
- Avoiding multiple sexual partners, a high-risk factor for contracting HPV.
HPV Testing in Stone Mountain, Georgia
If left untreated, a sexually transmitted disease (STD) can have long-term health consequences for women, such as causing pelvic pain or even leading to infertility, not to mention cervical cancer.
At DeKalb Women’s Specialists, our team of highly trained and experienced OB-GYNs provide effective services for a wide range of gynecological conditions, as well as testing, treatment, and prevention for STIs like HPV.
Don’t wait until you have a cause for concern about your gynecological health to get tested for HPV. It can be a part of your routine gynecology exam and Pap smear. Contact DeKalb Women’s Specialists today to set up a consultation at one of our nearest locations, or use our convenient online tool to schedule your appointment.