Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common sexually transmitted infection spread through body fluids and skin-to-skin contact. There are many types of HPV and they produce a variety of symptoms, including genital warts and cervical dysplasia. Like HIV, HPV can take years to show signs in the body, so even if you haven’t been sexually active in a long time, you could have HPV. Having physical check ups with Pap smears on a regular basis is important. They could save your life.
Because HPV can be in your system for a long time, you may not have any symptoms – lots of people don’t. But if you do have symptoms, you might notice:
HPV treatments vary depending on the type of HPV you have and the symptoms it produces. Treatment for genital warts will be different than treatment for cervical dysplasia.
If you have genital warts, they may disappear on their own. Nevertheless, the virus stays in your body and you can still transmit it to partners. Warts can be treated with a topical cream (treatment may last a few months) or with liquid nitrogen. If you think you might be pregnant, tell your care provider, because some treatments shouldn’t be used during pregnancy.
If you have cervical dysplasia (abnormal cells of the cervix), a follow up test to your Pap smear will indicate what needs to be treated. Removal of abnormal cells is usually done by:
If the condition has progressed to cervical cancer, surgery might be needed.
HPV is easily transmitted, so protect yourself through safer sex, using:
Get regular Pap tests in order to diagnose and treat infections early.