HPV in Bowie, Greenbelt, and North Bethesda, MD
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the US. While there are more than 100 strains, around 40 strains are spread through sexual contact. Some strains can cause cervical and other cancers, so catching and treating HPV early is of utmost importance to our Bowie, MD, OBGYN, and the Capital Women’s Care team.
What are the Symptoms of HPV?
Most people with HPV don’t experience symptoms, so you could have HPV and not even know it. Even high-risk HPV, which can lead to genital warts and certain cancers, won’t always present with symptoms. This is why keeping up with your annual gynecological exam and getting a regular pap test can help us detect abnormal cervical cells caused by HPV. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have cervical cancer, finding abnormal cells allows us to monitor your condition or treat it before it worsens. Just because you don’t experience symptoms doesn’t mean you can’t still infect others through sexual contact.
How is HPV Treated?
Most types of HPV will indeed go away over time without treatment. Your body will eventually clear the virus, but it can take a couple of years; however, we can often treat the symptoms associated with certain strains of HPV. For example, if we detect any abnormal cell changes in the cervix that could turn into cancer, we can continue to monitor you with regular Pap tests to ensure that it doesn’t turn into cancer. Abnormal cells may be frozen away or burned away with a laser. Genital warts are often treated with a topical medication that kills the tissue; however, methods used to treat traditional warts, such as freezing, can also be used to treat genital warts.
Can HPV be Prevented?
The good news is that HPV can be prevented by getting vaccinated. The HPV vaccine can protect against the strains that can cause genital warts and cancer. HPV vaccines are recommended for children between the ages of 9-12. Getting kids vaccinated early can protect them for the future. Teens and young adults 13-26 may also consider getting vaccinated. The HPV vaccine is not typically recommended for those over 26 years old.