What is HPV?
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a type of virus that is different from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and herpes virus (HSV). It is the most common cause of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the United States. HPV infects about 14 million people, including teens, each year in the United States. HPV is not a single type of virus, rather it is a group of many viruses characterized by lab studies and the typical type of warts (papillomas) that they cause. Papillomas are small growths or lumps that have outward nipple-like or finger-like fronds. Most HPV infections may go away without causing any health problems. Some HPV infections can cause genital warts or cancers such as cervical cancer (cancer of the lower part or neck of the uterus), head and neck cancer and cancer of the anus or penis.
Can you get rid of HPV once you have it?
In most cases, human papillomavirus (HPV) infections can go away on their own. Currently, there is no cure for HPV. However, there is an effective and a safe vaccine with a lasting effect available for HPV. Once you are infected, you can manage the symptoms caused by HPV
- Medications: Papillomas or genital and skin warts can be removed or treated with certain medications. Certain creams or ointments can be applied to the genital warts to get rid of them. They include podofilox, imiquimod and trichloroacetic acid (TCA).
- Cryotherapy: Warts can be treated by cryotherapy, which involves freezing the warts with liquid nitrogen.
- Cautery: Cauterizing the warts with heat or a laser can destroy them.
- Surgery: Warts can be removed by surgical treatment.
- Regular screening: Routine screening for women between the ages of 21 65 is important to prevent cervical cancer or manage it in its early stages. Screening can also detect abnormal cervical cells, which can typically be treated to prevent cervical cancer. Most HPV-related cancers are treatable when diagnosed early.
How can you prevent HPV?
You can protect yourself from human papillomavirus (HPV) and its complications by using the following options
- Getting vaccinated: The HPV vaccine is a quite safe, effective and lasting means of preventing the infection and associated complications including cancers caused by HPV. The CDC recommends HPV vaccination for all preteens (girls and boys) aged 11 to 12 years (it can start at 9 years too) to protect them from HPV infections that can cause cancer later in life. Teens and young adults through 26 years of age who did not start or finish the vaccine doses also need HPV vaccination.
- Getting screened for cervical cancer: Experts recommend routine screening for women aged 21 ro 65 years to prevent cervical cancer or manage it in its early stages.
- Using latex condoms every time during sex: Using condoms the right way can lower the chances of getting HPV. Condoms may not fully protect against HPV because it can infect areas not covered by a condom.
- Being in a mutually monogamous relationship: Staying in a mutually monogamous relationship or having sex only with someone who only has sex with you can lower the chances of being infected with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) including HPV.
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