HPV is a family of about 100 common viruses, some of which have been linked with an increased risk for cervical cancer and the development of genital warts. HPV is so common, nearly every man and women will come in contact with the virus during their lives. In most cases, the body's immune system successfully removes the virus from the body and no symptoms are even felt. But some types of HPV are stubborn, remaining in the body. Often, these infections are detected with a Pap test and can be treated with medication. Some types of HPV transmitted through vaginal, anal or oral sex cannot be eliminated, but their symptoms, such as warts, can be managed.
HPV is most commonly diagnosed with a routine Pap test that uses a small sample of cervical cells to look for changes that are associated with viral infection. Another common diagnostic technique is colposcopy, an in-office exam that uses magnification and a special solution applied to the cervix and vagina to look for abnormal cells. In addition to visual and microscopic examination, there is also a DNA test that can be used to evaluate cells for the presence of HPV. To date, there is no blood test to identify HPV infection.
When the immune system is unable to clear the virus on its own, there are treatments that can help manage symptoms, including prescription creams to treat warts and minimally-invasive procedures to remove warts. Each treatment is based on the patient's specific needs for optimal results.
Yes, HPV is infectious, and you'll need to discuss ways to prevent transmission during your office visit.
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