Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, with over 40 million infections each year. Despite the large number of infections, HPV is generally harmless, usually passing without issue within approximately two years.
HPV has over 100 different strains, most of which are handled routinely by your immune system. A few of the strains, however, can lead to cervical or other cancers. It’s sometimes difficult to know you have an HPV infection since its symptoms may be mild or even non-existent.
If you’re sexually active, you’re at risk of HPV infection. Gynecological care with Alexandra Pellicena, M.D., FACOG is the best way to ensure that HPV doesn’t become an issue for you. Take some time to review the following information, including the signs of HPV, and be sure to make an appointment if you have concerns.
The spread of HPV is through skin-to-skin contact. The most common transmission is through sexual contact. Some strains of HPV are responsible for warts, which are common in children. Genital warts are most common in young adults. The symptoms of HPV depend on the version of the virus that infects you.
Warts are a common sign of HPV, though in most cases, your body defeats the HPV infection before a wart forms. The look and location of your wart depends on the particular version of the virus with which you are infected.
Virtually all cancers of the cervix result from HPV infections. The lowest risk infections usually have the most obvious symptoms, which are typically warts on the cervix. These can be painful and could cause irritation. Cervical warts could also be prone to bleeding.
High-risk cervical HPV infections generally have no symptoms in the early stages. As the infection develops, it causes changes to the cells of the cervix, which can eventually lead to cervical cancer. These are the suspicious cells that can be detected through Pap testing.
Fortunately, cervical cancers are generally slow to develop, so it could be 20 years between the first HPV infection and the start of cancer. Pelvic examinations with a gynecologist are recommended to increase the rate of detection.
Patients who don’t have regular Pap tests may develop signs of HPV infection later when cancerous changes start to proliferate. Pain during sex or pelvic pain may be the first signs of trouble, but these symptoms are common to many conditions.
Vaginal discharge or unexpected bleeding may also stem from cervical cancer. But these, too, are frequently symptoms of other diseases. The urinary tract may present signs as well, including blood in the urine or problems with urination itself. In rare cases, bowel function could also be affected. You may also notice weight loss in the later stages.
Fortunately, vaccines protecting against the strains that lead to cervical and other cancers are available and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for children as young as 9 up to age 45, with 11 or 12 being the most common age for vaccination. This protects both girls and boys before they have sexual contact.
As a gynecologist, Dr. Pellicena is an excellent choice for information, vaccination, and treatment to guard against the effects of HPV infection. Contact our office by phone or through the online booking link. Telemedicine appointments are also available. Preventing HPV-related cervical cancer is simple. Schedule your consultation now.