What Is HPV, And Why Should Women Be Aware Of It?

Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, is a condition that is transferred via the skin and mucous membranes of men and women during sexual intercourse. Along the lines of various other viruses, it buries itself in the affected person's skin where it can then lay dormant for very long periods of time without triggering any tangible signs or symptoms of infection. This distressing peculiarity of the disease leads most infected people to be oblivious to their condition, and allows it to become easily passed on to new, unsuspecting hosts.

The HPV virus appears in an extraordinary number of forms (research scientists have recognized about 100 distinct variations), but only 40 are known to be sexually transmittable. Among this group, HPV 16 and 18 are extremely notable due to their well-known associations with cancer.

Indications of HPV Infection

The most frequent, obvious HPV symptoms in women are genital warts, and in some cases warts inside the throat or mouth. These warts are often difficult to spot because they can have surprisingly different appearances, ranging from flat, cauliflower-like nodules to raised blobs. They may also vary considerably in coloration, occasionally appearing pink and in other instances as dark variants of the individual's normal complexion.

 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that among the nearly 6,000,0000 estimated new cases of HPV annually, just a small fraction are ever clinically diagnosed. This isn't surprising when one considers that more than 90% of HPV infections clear themselves in two years or less, and many of them never show any symptoms. It is the remaining 10% of cases however, and specifically those that do not exhibit outward symptoms of infection, that give women reason to be concerned.

Human Papillomavirus Prevention

Even though insisting on your partner's usage of a condom may decrease the probability of contracting HPV, it is not a fool-proof form of protection. Because any skin-on-skin touching can lead to transferring the virus, covering the genital area alone is often not enough. For that reason, preventive HPV vaccines named Cervarix and Gardisil have been given to females as young as 12 years of age as an additional step in fighting the virus.

If you've already acquired HPV, the vaccine still won't rid you of the disease. It can, however, prevent you from contracting the other forms to which you have not been exposed. Having your annual Pap smear and a HPV examination are additional recommended measures that will permit you to find any possible problems fast enough to treat them.