What Is HPV?
HPV is the Human Papillomavirus. This is a virus that causes infection in the skin and the mucus membranes. There are almost 200 types of HPV that infects humans, some of these viruses will not show any signs or symptoms, but some can cause warts and some can actually be the cause of some types of cancer. Cervical cancer is almost always caused by HPV, which is why having a Pap smear performed is so important. This exam can actually catch the signs of cervical cancer early enough that treatment can be started. There are about 40 HPV's that are sexually transmitted, and can cause genital warts, pre-cancerous lesions, and even invasive cancer. There are things that can be done to catch this early enough for it to be treated, and maybe prevent the serious illnesses that are associated with this virus.
How is HPV Transmitted?
HPV is transmitted from person to person by a few different ways. One way it is transmitted is during childbirth, the virus can be passed from mother to baby during this time. This way is extremely rare, and babies being infected, even if the mother has genital warts, is very low. Another way to transmit HPV is through genital infection, and sexual contact. Condoms does not help prevent the transmission of this virus, because the virus can infect the area surrounding the genitals and the inner thigh. The last way that transmission occurs is through sharing objects that have been exposed to the virus.
Diagnosis and Prevention of HPV
This virus can be diagnosed in two ways, cervical screening, and actually seeing the genital warts. There are tests that can be done during a routine Pap smear that can catch the virus early. The other way to diagnose HPV is to actually see the genital warts caused by the virus. As for the prevention of the virus, there is a vaccine that can be done, and it is recommended for girls from the age of 15. This vaccine only targets the types 16 and 18, and types 6 and 11. Type 16 and 18 is the virus that most commonly causes cervical cancer, and type 6 and 11 usually leads to genital warts. As for condoms being used to prevent the virus, the male condoms don't provide much protection against the virus, but the female condom does give more protection because the female condom blocks more skin contact than anything else. There are chemicals, known as Microbicides, which can block the transmission of HPV. Nothing is one hundred percent effective, except to know who you are with and who they have been with, and if they take care of themselves.
Treatment of HPV
Right now there are no specific treatments that is used for HPV, most of the time it clears up by itself. The body's immune system helps to fight the virus, and it is usually cleared up within about two years in ninety percent of the cases. The best treatment for this virus has proven to be the prevention of it. Keep appointments with your physician and get the necessary tests to catch this early, and maybe prevent it from causing an invasive cancer or an infection. It is believed that about seventy five to eighty percent of people that are sexually active will have HPV at some point in their life, and of all the cases, about seventy four percent of them are patients between fifteen and twenty four years of age. The lack of treatment for the virus is what makes the prevention the most important aspect for you.