STD/STI: Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

HPV isn’t in the news as much as it was a few years ago when the vaccine first came out. But it is still one of the STD/STIs that most people are familiar with. It is also one that I think people make way to much fuss about. According the CDC “…almost every sexually-active person will get HPV at some time in their lives…” That said, the possible complications of HPV are real causes for concern. As always, educate yourself so you can protect yourself.

Prevention: Condoms provide some protection, but aren’t perfect. Don’t have sexual interaction with anyone who has visible warts and make sure you and your partners get tested regularly. The HPV vaccine protects against some forms of the virus, including those most likely to cause cancer. Given what the CDC says about everyone being infected at one point or another, don’t drive yourself crazy with this one.

Treatment: If warts develop, they can be treated by a doctor. Do not try to use over the counter wart treatments – they are not designed for genital warts. If you have HPV, additional tests can determine if you are infected with one of the varieties linked to cancer. Your doctor can advise you on any additional precautions you can take if those tests come back positive. Most HPV infections clear up on their own within 6 months.

Symptoms: Genital warts may look like cauliflower heads or flat, raised areas of skin. They are often microscopic. Many people don’t develop any symptoms.

Shaved base of a penis, with genital warts
Used under CC 3.0, by Rrreeewww

Complications: Some forms of HPV can cause cancers, include cervical, anal, vaginal and others. The HPV vaccine protects against some forms of HPV that cause cancer. If an expectant mother has HPV during labor and delivery, the baby may (rarely) be infected. If you are pregnant make sure your doctor is aware if you have been diagnosed with HPV, so precautions can be taken.

Back to the Long List of STD/STIs.

STD/STI: Genital Warts

For the first time in our examination of sexually transmitted infections we say hello to our good friend HPV(human papillomavirus). There are several kinds of HPV, and some of them cause genital warts. Luckily, the information I’ve been able to find suggests that the strains of HPV that cause warts are different from the strains of HPV that contribute to cervical or anal cancer.

Genital warts is one of those sneaky infections – you may not know you have it, and once you know all you can do is treat the symptoms. It is also difficult to protect against. As far as I can tell, genital warts do not create any long-term health problems.

Prevention: Don’t have sex if you or your partner has visible genital warts. Condoms (male or female) protect against infection in the areas they cover, but it is possible to be infected in other regions. As female condoms cover more of the genitals, they provide greater protection. The HPV vaccine provides protection against some forms of HPV that cause genital warts. The vaccine in not recommended for men or women over 26 years old.

Treatment: Treatment is restricted to treating the symptoms. Over-the-counter treatments are ineffective. A doctor can remove the warts using surgery or provide a prescription treatment.

Symptoms: Men who are infected will only have symptoms 10% of the time. Women develop symptoms more than half the time. An infected person can transmit the infection whether or not they have symptoms. When warts develop they can look like small cauliflower, or flesh-colored bumps. Warts can occur pretty much anywhere on or in the genitals and anus, as well as on the lips, mouth and throat. A weakened immune system due to illness, pregnancy, medication or other cause increases the risk of warts developing.

While unsightly when they develop, genital warts are not an STD/STI that we need to be overly concerned with. Realistically, genital warts are no different from warts anywhere else on the body (which are all caused by HPV). So if you wouldn’t freak out about your partner having warts on hir hands, there is no reason to freak out about genital warts.

Back to the Long List of STD/STIs