Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a sexually transmitted disease. It is almost exclusively passed from one person to another through sexual contact, mostly vaginal and anal. It can also be passed from the genitals to the mouth in rarer instances, and even from a mother to a baby.
HPV is an extremely common virus, and almost everyone is exposed to the virus at one point or another in life. It also rarely produces symptoms, and most people who have the virus gradually eliminate it from the body without ever knowing that they had it in the first place. In certain situations, however, HPV can cause alarming symptoms and lead to potential complications that will need to be addressed medically.
Symptoms and Complications
When HPV does produce symptoms, the typical ones that are seen are the presence of warts on or around the genital area. A more serious issue that stems from HPV, however, is that over time, it goes undetected and can eventually cause cervical cancer in women. In rarer instances, it can lead to other forms of cancer in the vagina, vulva, anus, penis or throat. It can also cause warts in the throat in rare situations.
Treatment of HPV
The best method for preventing the complications of HPV over time is with a vaccine. Available for both preteen boys and girls, these vaccines are very safe and can protect children from HPV and its complications later in life. The HPV vaccine can also be given to young women and men up to age 26 if they did not get it as a child. Abstinence, monogamy or condom use are other methods for preventing an HPV infection..
When genital warts occur, they can be removed medically or with at-home treatments. Cervical cancer can also be treated if it results from an HPV infection, and the best results occur when the cancer is diagnosed and treated early on.
SOURCES: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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