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Sexually Transmitted Diseases
|What Is HPV?
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that spreads from person to person by physical contact. There are more than 100 types of HPV, about 60 cause warts on areas such as the hands or feet. The other 40 or so are transmitted sexually and are drawn to the body's mucous membranes, such as the moist tissue around the genitals and anus. These 40 viruses are known as genital HPV. Genital HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD). These types of HPV can also infect the throat and mouth (through oral sex). For the remainder of this article will discuss genital HPV only.
Most people who are infected with HPV viruses are unaware because they remain symptom free. However certain strands of the virus can cause genital warts and others are associated with cervical dysplasia (early signs of cancer) and cervical cancer. HPV is nothing to do with genital herpes or HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). While both these viruses are also STDs, they cause different symptoms and health problems.
HPV is spread by skin to skin contact with an infected person - even if that person has no signs or symptoms. If your genital area comes into contact with an infected person the virus can be transmitted. It can also be passed to your mouth or throat by performing oral sex on an infected person. HPV can infect areas of skin not normally covered by a condom, so condoms (even female condoms which cover more skin area) cannot fully protect you from infection. In rare instances the virus can be passed to a baby during childbirth and that child can develop juvenile-onset recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (JORRP).
Most people with HPV do not develop any obvious signs or health problems. And, in 90 percent of cases the body's immune system naturally destroys the virus within 2 years of infection. But sometimes, for unknown reasons, the virus does not clear and can cause:
• 20 million Americans are currently affected with HPV.
Is My Partner Cheating On Me?
You have been in a long-term relationship for years and are suddenly diagnosed with HPV. It is natural to wonder has your partner been unfaithful to you, or will he think you have been unfaithful to him. Finding out you, or your partner has HPV does not necessarily mean anyone has been unfaithful. There is no way of knowing how long the infected person has had the virus - it could be weeks, months or even years.
If you suddenly develop genital warts, this is one way a diagnosis may be made. Another way is if you are told your Pap test results are abnormal. The Pap test is the main way that doctors check for precancerous changes of the cervix, and for cervical cancer. If cell changes are detected, your doctor may perform a DNA HPV test to detect if those changes are related to the HPV virus. This test will also tell the doctor what type of HPV you have. The doctor takes a swab of cells from the cervix (just as for the Pap test) and these cells are analyzed in a laboratory. The HPV test is usually only performed on women with abnormal Pap test results, although some doctors perform it as part of the routine Pap test. The HPV test is less likely to be given to you routinely if you are aged under 30 because the HPV virus clears naturally more often in younger women than older women.
There is no cure for HPV, but just because you test positive for the virus does not automatically mean you need treatment. In the vast majority of cases, the body clears the virus naturally by itself. If you have no obvious symptoms but you are diagnosed with one of the high-risk strains of HPV associated with cancer your doctor may recommend closer monitoring in the form of frequent Pap tests. If the virus however has caused abnormal cells changes (dysplasia) that could lead to cancer, he could recommend either a watch and wait policy (sometimes cell changes heal on their own). Or he could recommend a type of cervical cancer treatment - such as conization or laser surgery. The goal of treatment is to remove all the abnormal cells and those remove most of the cells with HPV. See also:
It is a vaccination that can protect females (and males) from some of the most common types of HPV that cause cancer. The vaccine is NOT a cure, if you are already infected it will have no effect. It is a preventative medicine only. Two vaccines - Cervarix and Gardasil - are available for girls and women.
1. Get vaccinated, either with Gardasil or Cervarix. If you already have HPV it will not treat or cure the virus. However it will still help protect against other types of HPV (for example cervical cancer HPV viruses are different to those that cause genital warts).
|Related Articles on STDs
For more advice, see the following:
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WOMENS HEALTH ADVICE: ABOUT SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES