HPV is an extremely common virus that affects both males and females, infecting approximately 20 million Americans. It is transmitted through any skin to skin genital contact. Condoms do not prevent its spread. There are about 30 different strains of HPV that affect the genital area and these strains are grouped into categories based on their virilence or ability to cause disease. These categories are “low risk” or “high risk” types of the virus.
These viruses may not have any signs or symptoms and therefore many people do not know they carry the virus or that they are spreading the virus. HPV is responsible for causing growths on the genital areas of both males and females called warts. More worrisome is that this virus causes cancer of the genital tract in women. HPV is capable of causing cancerous and pre-cancerous changes of the vulva, vagina and cervix. A PAP smear performed annually can help detect these pre-cancerous cell changes early and avoid the development of cervical cancer. Newer technology now is available to detect the DNA of HPV off the PAP smear collection, even in those with normal PAP smear results.
Fortunately, there is now a vaccine available to prevent the acquisition of four of the most common strains of the virus. For more information on the new vaccine, visit the Gardasil link on this website under the Women's Health Library.
Medical Disclaimer: The information provided on the Gynecology & Infertility Associates website should be relied upon for medical education purposes only. It is not intended to replace the independent judgment of a health care provider. The appropriateness of a course of treatment for a patient may vary from the medical information provided herein due to individual conditions and/or complications.