Human Papillomavirus (HPV) has been a popular subject in the media with the approval of the HPV vaccine. With over 70 percent of the population infected with the virus, we should all learn to recognize the symptoms of HPV and understand how it is detected.
It is important to note that there are different types of HPV. Some cause symptoms and some don't. People can still be infected and not experience any symptoms of HPV.
When HPV Does Not Produce Symptoms:
HPV is a group of over a hundred different viruses. There are some types that are high-risk, cancer-causing strains, other strains that are known to cause genital warts. The HPV strains responsible for causing genital warts do not cause cancer, and vice versa.
The strains of HPV that are known to cause cervical cancer do not produce any symptoms. These types of HPV are detected through Pap smears in women. Unfortunately, there is no medical test available for men.
When HPV Does Produce Symptoms:
Not all strains of HPV cause cancer. Other strains of HPV can produce genital warts-- cauliflower-like growths that occur on and around the vagina, penis, and anus.
Diagnosing HPV in Women:
The best method of detecting and diagnosing HPV in women is through a regular pelvic exam and Pap smear. A pelvic exam allows the doctor to exam the vagina closely to check for genital warts.
The Pap smear can detect precancerous changes on the cervix caused by HPV that could lead to cancer. Remember, this type of HPV does not normally cause any symptoms, so a regular Pap smear is essential. If left undetected, high-risk strains of HPV can cause cervical cancer.
Diagnosing HPV in Men:
There is no screening test available for men to determine if they are infected with HPV. Genital warts can be diagnosed through visual examination of the penis and surrouding areas.
What to Do If You Have HPV Symptoms:
If you suspect that you have genital warts or may be infected with HPV, see your doctor. Because most cases of HPV go away on their own, treatment may or may not be recommended.
The Pap smear is the best method for detecting HPV in women. A regular Pap smear can detect HPV and any cervical changes caused by HPV before they become cancerous.
- Centers for Disease and Prevention."Sexually Transmitted Disease Guidelines 2006." Sep 2006. Accessed 7 Nov 2006.
- Centers for Disease and Prevention. "Genital HPV Infection - CDC Fact Sheet". May 2004. Accessed 7 Nov 2006.