Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Human Papillomavirus HPV

What Is Human Papillomavirus?

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that’s transmitted through sexual contact. Health professionals believe that every sexually-active adult probably has HPV. Most people, however, will never experience any symptoms or health problems from the virus. There is now a safe and effective vaccine for children that can prevent the disease.

How Do You Get HPV?

You get HPV by having oral, vaginal or anal sex with someone who has the disease. It’s not unusual for someone to contract HPV the very first time they have sex.

How Do You Know You Have HPV?

After someone is infected with HPV, the virus usually goes away and doesn’t cause any symptoms or health problems. However, HPV can also lie dormant for years after you get it before it causes any symptoms. It’s not clear why some people develop health problems from HPV and others don’t, however people with a weakened immune system might be more susceptile to the disease.

There are many different kinds of HPV that can cause different problems. Those who experience symptoms from HPV commonly develop genital warts. These are small bumps or groups of bumps around the genital area, and they can be painful.

A different kind of HPV can cause cancer of the vagina, penis, anus or even the mouth and back of the throat. Cancer caused by HPV often takes years to develop. Women are particularly at risk of developing cervical cancer caused by HPV.

Can You Treat or Cure HPV?

This is no cure for HPV. However, there some medications that can help ease the symptoms of HPV, such as genital warts. Cervical cancer caused by HPV can usually be detected before it even develops. All kinds of cancer caused by HPV are most easily treated when detected early.

Is HPV Dangerous?

Yes, for those who develop medical problems from the virus. The CDC estimates that, each year, about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer caused by HPV, and 4,000 of them die from the disease. About one in 100 sexually-active adults probably has genital warts.

Can You Prevent HPV?

Yes. There is a safe and effective vaccine available that can prevent you from contracting HPV, but you must be vaccinated before you have sex for the first time. Health professionals recommend that all boys and girls aged 11 and 12 should receive the HPV vaccine. Men and women who weren’t vaccinated as children can get the vaccine until about age 26.

How Do You Test for HPV?

There is no test that can determine whether you have HPV, however there are tests to screen for cervical cancer.

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