HPV: Prevention, Diagnosis & Treatment
HPV, or human papillomavirus, is a sexually transmitted disease that is easily spread from person to person through any type of sexual contact. HPV is so common that the CDC estimates that at least 80% of all sexually active women will contract the virus by age 50. While some HPV infections don’t cause any symptoms and go away on their own, other HPV viruses cause genital warts, while others are responsible for the development of cervical cancer. It all depends on the type of HPV that is contracted, as there are approximately 100 different strains.
Typically, the strains of HPV that cause genital warts do not pose any other serious health risks. Genital warts are usually accompanied by relatively minor symptoms such as itching, burning or pain during intercourse. Even when the virus is present for weeks or months before any warts materialize, this type of HPV remains comparatively harmless.
However, other strains of HPV are the ones that are usually considered high-risk, as they can cause changes in the cervix that may lead to cervical cancer. Moreover, the longer the virus stays in your body, the more dangerous it becomes. But because of the lack of symptoms, most infected females do not visit their doctor because they suspect on their own that they have HPV. Rather, the presence of HPV is usually detected by a Pap test.
Due to the ease of spreading HPV, the only truly effective method of eliminating the spread of the virus is to abstain from all types of sexual activity. However, there are three preventative options recommended:
LIMIT YOUR NUMBER OF SEXUAL PARTNERS
By remaining in a long-term, faithful relationship, and thereby keeping your total number of sexual partners to a minimum, you can reduce your potential exposure to the virus. With every new sexual partner, you increase your risk of contracting HPV by 15 percent.
Condoms are effective in reducing the transmission of HPV when used continuously during sexual activity. However, other parts of the body not covered by the condom can still be affected.
The most effective method of preventing most genital warts and most cases of cervical cancer is through the HPV vaccine.
A routine vaccination is recommended for girls 11-12 years old in order for the HPV vaccine to be administered before a girl’s first sexual contact- because they have not been exposed to HPV.
A Catch-Up Vaccination is recommended for girls and women 13 -26 years of age who did not receive the HPV vaccine when they were younger. This HPV vaccine is given as a 3-dose series.
Please do not hesitate to call Dr. Dittrich or JoAnn Casella, CRNP at 215-465-3000 OR 856-435-9090 for more information.