The CDC estimates that the human papilloma virus (HPV) infects approximately 79 million Americans with the human papilloma virus (HPV), and many don’t even realize it. Because certain strains of HPV can eventually cause cervical cancer, screening Pap tests are important, especially if you’ve been sexually active with multiple partners. Dr. Srisawai Pattamakom is a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist at Ideal Women’s Health Specialists in Ventura, California. She has the expertise to diagnose and treat HPV and an upbeat and caring personality that helps ease your anxiety during office visits. Call today for an appointment or book your visit online.

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What is HPV?

HPV is the viral infection responsible for warts. There are 100s of different strains of HPV. Some cause the common warts you may develop on your hands, feet, neck or other regions of your body. While sometimes bothersome, these warts are most often benign or noncancerous.

Other strains of HPV are attracted to areas where your skin remains relatively moist, such as in the anal and genital regions. Most HPV infections don’t lead to cancer, but some strains of genital warts can cause cervical cancer. Research has also linked certain cancers of the anus, penis, vagina, and vulva to HPV.

What does HPV look like?

Your body’s immune system is often able to defeat an HPV infection before warts appear. If not, the appearance and size of your warts vary depending on the type of HPV you have.

Genital warts usually appear as flat lesions, bumps with a cauliflower-like surface texture, or tiny protrusions attached to your skin with a stem-like structure. Women often notice genital warts on the vulvar area. But you can also develop genital warts near the anus, on your cervical tissue, or in the vagina. These skin lesions sometimes itch but are rarely painful.

Some strains of HPV, however, do not cause warts at all. Most cervical cancers are caused by HPV types that don’t usually cause warts. Women may not even realize they have HPV and cervical cancer typically causes no signs or symptoms in its early stages.

Who usually gets HPV infections?

HPV is contagious and spreads through contact. If you have multiple sexual partners or have sex with someone who has had multiple partners, your risk of coming in contact with HPV increases.

A weakened immune system, lacerations and other skin wounds, and using showers at the gym and other public areas can also increase your risk of infection.

What is the treatment for HPV?

Prevention is probably the most effective “treatment” for cancer-causing strains of HPV and vaccines exist that effectively prevent these types of infections.  

A Pap test cannot detect the virus itself, but it can identify precancerous changes in your cervix. This early detection allows Dr. Pattamakom to remove these abnormal cells before they develop into cancer.

Depending on their location and type, visible genital warts may respond to topical treatments with medicated ointment or surgical removal.

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