According to the American Sexual Health Association, as many as 79 million Americans are currently infected with human papillomavirus, or HPV. This is a serious personal and public health issue and is among the many conditions that William Garcia, MD, can diagnose and treat through his Vienna, Virginia, OB/GYN practice. If you’d like to learn more or get tested for HPV, book a visit today, online or by phone.
HPV, or human papillomavirus, is actually a group of related viruses. Some estimates place the actual number of HPV types at more than 100, while others suggest there are more than 200 types.
Each type of HPV is identified with a number. The vast majority cause no significant health problems and your body is able to effectively fight them off. However, a small number of HPV viruses can cause cervical cancer or genital warts.
The virus can also lead to cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, throat, and mouth. HPV is currently the most common type of sexually transmitted infection in America.
If you contract the type of HPV that causes genital warts, you may notice small, raised growths on the inside or outside of your vagina, on your vulva, or around your anus. These warts can be painful, especially if they’re clustered or grow large.
What makes HPV such a challenge is the fact that most infections cause no symptoms at all. That means both women and men can be infected with HPV and have no idea. Making matters even worse is the fact that the virus is easily spread from one person to the next through any type of sexual contact.
Any type of sexual interaction can spread HPV. Vaginal, anal, and oral sex can transmit the disease, as well as any form of genital contact.
Certain things increase your risk of getting HPV, including:
There are steps you can take to reduce your risk, but sexual abstinence is the only way to completely eliminate risk.
Several relatively new vaccines have been developed for the strains of HPV known to cause cancer. These vaccines show promise for reducing the number of infections in future generations.
Parents are advised to have their kids vaccinated prior to puberty before any sexual contact occurs. As more and more people pursue this route, researchers expect HPV-related cancers to dramatically decline.
Adults can also benefit from HPV vaccination, so be sure to discuss the issue with Dr. Garcia during your next exam. You can also call or use the online tool to book a screening.