Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmited disease, or STD. This extremely common infection affects the genitals of men and women and in some instances can lead to genital warts and cancer.
HPV: what you should know
- You can get HPV from sex (vaginal, anal and oral sex) and genital-to-genital contact.
- The good news: HPV goes away in most cases. The bad news: You may not know you have it because HPV symptoms may not surface for years.
- HPV can lead to genital warts; anal warts; warts in the throat (recurrent respiratory papillomatosis); cervical cancer, head and neck cancers, and other cancers.
- To find HPV before it becomes a problem, doctors recommend regular screening for women 30 and older (and women with abnormal Pap tests).
- Women who are 26 and younger may opt to have an HPV vaccine (e.g., Gardasil). The Centers for Disease Control advises that boys and girls begin getting vaccinated around 11 or 12.
How can I get help for HPV?
Your primary care doctor, OB-GYN or urogynecologist can discuss vaccination options as well as screening for HPV (which is typically done at the same time as your Pap test). He or she can also recommend prevention tips (e.g, latex condoms, limiting sexual partners, abstinence).
Call your doctor if you have the following:
- Sexual contact with someone with HPV
- Soft, moist genital (in or near the cervix, vulva or vagina) warts or anal warts
- Warts in your throat