HPV (human papilloma virus), is a viral infection spread through skin to skin sexual contact. Symptoms and signs of HPV often take weeks, months or even years to show. Sometimes no signs or symptoms are present at all. If there are signs then it is usually in the form of cauliflower like growths called genital warts. Many people are infected with HPV each year due to the fact that the signs and symptoms take so long to show up if they do at all. The carrier of it often is not aware they have it, then they pass it to others during sexual activities. You are at a greater risk for HPV if you have sex with many partners or if you engage in sexual activities with someone who has had many partners.
HPV can cause many health problems, such as genital warts, cervical changes, and cervical cancer. HPV itself does not have a cure, but there are treatments for the health problems it causes. There are many treatment choices for genital warts. But even after the warts are treated, the virus might still be there and may be passed on to others. If genital warts are not treated they may go away, stay the same, or increase in size or number. All women should get a Pap smear regularly. The Pap test looks for cell changes caused by HPV. The test finds cell changes early -- so the cervix can be treated before the cells turn into cancer. This test also can also find cancer in its early stages so it can be treated before it becomes too serious.
There now are vaccines that may help prevent HPV. The vaccines are Gardasil and Cervarix. These vaccines mimics the disease and create resistance. These vaccines are NOT a live or a dead virus. It prevents infection with HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18. Cervarix prevents infection with HPV types 16 and 18. These HPV vaccines are now available and recommended for girls, women, boys and men ages 9-26. Because of the potential dangers of treating cervical dysplasia or developing cervical cancer we strongly recommend vaccination for every one indicated. The vaccine can be obtained from Lexington Women's Health during a brief nurse visit or from your gyn provider.