HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most commonly contracted sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Most Americans who are sexually active and who have not received the HPV vaccine will contract genital HPV at some point in their lifetime.
Symptoms of HPV
The main symptoms of HPV are soft warts that appear around the genitals. These bumps may come and go on their own, and even may remain dormant for years before reappearing. Some people exhibit no symptoms at all. Men are less likely than women to develop symptoms as a result of HPV.
In some cases, an HPV infection can lead to certain types of cancer. There is an established link between HPV and cervical cancer, as well as penile cancer, vulvar cancer, and anal cancer.
How HPV is Contracted
The only known way to contract HPV is through sexual contact with an infected person. HPV can be contracted whether the person has warts or not. Contrary to myth, HPV can not be contracted through contact with toilet seats or by contact with blood or feces.
There is currently no easy HPV test that will allow a physician to determine if a patient is carrying the human papillomavirus. HPV is typically diagnosed by inspecting the genitals for warts.
A DNA test can determine if a person has HPV, but because of the expense of these tests, they are typically not ordered. A physician may order this type of HPV test if he or she knows their female patient has HPV and they want to determine if she has the high-risk variety of HPV that often leads to cervical cancer. However, this test is rarely used for screening purposes.
A pap smear detects abnormal cells on the cervix, which is an indicator of the pre-cancerous stages of cervical cancer. Women should get an annual pap smear, especially if they have been diagnosed with HPV in the past.
There is currently no cure for HPV, but in most instances, it goes away on its own. Some anecdotal evidence suggests that there are HPV treatment vitamins, such as vitamin D or vitamin A, but so far there is no medical evidence that taking vitamin supplements can either prevent or get rid of the virus faster.
Your physician may prescribe some anti-viral medications to slow the replication process of the virus and help your system clear it more quickly. The bumps can be removed by a variety of methods, including burning and freezing them off.