Tuesday, 8 May 2012
HPV. Human papillomavirus
The most common sexually transmitted disease (STD). There are many HPV types that can infect the genital areas of males and females, and some can also infect the mouth and throat. HPV is acquired during sexual intercourse with someone who is infected. Unfortunately most people do not know they are infected with the virus since the initial symptoms can be minor. In 90% of people the virus is cleared from the body without any treatment. Some types of HPV can cause genital warts and rarely warts in the throat. Other HPV types can cause cervical cancer.
Most patients with HPV have little or no symptoms. Genital warts appear as a small bump or groups of bumps in the genital area. They can be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower. They appear within weeks or months after sexual contact with an infected partner. Many times the warts resolve on their own. Warts do not become cancer. Cervical cancer usually does not have symptoms until it is advanced and difficult to treat. Symptoms of advanced cervical cancer include vaginal pain, abnormal vaginal intercourse, painful intercourse, and vaginal fullness.
There is no treatment for the virus itself, but there are treatments for the problems that HPV can cause. Most genital warts will go away on their own. Healthcare providers can provide medication or remove the warts directly. Cervical cancer has very few early symptoms and detection in the earliest most treatable form requires screening with a PAP smear. The PAP smear detects abnormal cells and early detection can save a woman's life. There is a vaccine against HPV which can help prevent acquiring the disease. Condoms during sexual intercourse are also recommended to protect against HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
HPV is diagnosed by the appearance of the genital warts or through a PAP smear for women.