Identifying the Human Papilloma Virus Early
There are more than 40 types of HPV or human papilloma virus that can affect the mouth, throat and genitals without showing any symptoms. Although it is a relatively common infection that can be cured completely, untreated HPV infections have the potential to become cancerous. Learn the details about HPV symptoms and dangers to protect yourself, and know when to seek medical attention.
What is HPV?
HPV is a virus affecting the skin and tissue that can be transmitted very easily, but can remain in the body for years without showing any symptoms. HPV is the cause of all types of warts, but the effects are typically painless and often undetectable.
Different strains of HPV bring different complications. For instance, genital warts are caused by a specific strain of the virus that results in small painless bumps on the surface of the genitals, and rarely results in a serious condition. On the other hand, a different HPV strain targets a woman's cervix, and is in fact responsible for all cases of cervical cancer.
The HPV virus causes normal cells to turn abnormal, and in most cases, the body will fight off the virus and these cells will turn back to normal on their own. However, when the body cannot fight off the infection, it can spread into more cells, causing them to become cancerous. The relationship between HPV and cancer has prompted many young women to receive the relatively recently developed HPV vaccine, which protects against genital warts, cervical cancer and vaginal cancer. The vaccine is given in three doses, and brings very little risk of serious side effects, although fainting, headache and fever have been reported by some.
HPV Test and Treatment
An HPV test to diagnose genital warts will involve a physical exam and sometimes a biopsy to rule out any other possible infections. The strain of HPV that targets the cervix may be detected during a routine Pap smear, but a separate procedure will be necessary to test for the virus. Abnormal cervical cells can be an indicator of the virus, but an HPV DNA test is designed to detect the virus and will be used with the Pap test results to determine a woman's cancer risk.
Although there is no cure for HPV infections yet, the body fights off most infections. An HPV treatment to remove genital warts can come in a variety of forms, from topical creams to laser therapy. The treatment of cervical HPV can be more involved, and will usually involve surgery to remove the affected cells. However, if the HPV virus is caught early, one surgical treatment can eradicate the virus. Research is currently being conducted on therapeutic HPV vaccines to treat advanced infections.
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