The Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the virus which causes of genital warts, is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections with over 70 different strains. The virus causes unsightly and itchy growths on the skin and is transferred by skin to skin contact. Despite the prevalence of HPV, few know anything more about the virus. Certain strains of HPV are very dangerous and can cause cancer, and the virus can affect other non-genital areas of skin including the hands, mouth, and anus.
One thing everyone should be aware of is that warts from HPV can take as long as six months to show up after infection has occurred. Warts from HPV can also be so small that you may not even notice that they are there. So even if your past and current partners don’t see any signs of the virus and are honest about not having visible warts, this doesn’t mean they have not been infected or been in contact with the virus in the past.
The presence of the following risk factors increases your risk of infection:
- Sexual activity at a young age
(common warts occur most frequently in children and teens)
- Having multiple sexual partners
- Weakened immune system from illness or medication
- Infection with other viruses like herpes
- Damaged skin that is exposed
With the dangers associated with the virus it is important to get the HPV vaccine even if you are not sexually active. The vaccines prevent infection and should be received before contact with the virus in made in order to be effective. Even if you have received the vaccine, avoid increased exposure to possible infection since the vaccines do not prevent all strains of HPV.
There are two vaccines available–Gardasil and Cervarix, which can prevent high risk strains of HPV, the common strains which cause warts and cancer. You may schedule an appointment with Dr. Ayalon to discuss the virus, the vaccines, and any other concerns and questions you have about HPV and other STIs. Even after receiving the vaccines be sure to have an annual pap smear to screen for cervical cancer and other irregularities.
Vaccination can be administered to girls as young as 9 years old but is recommended for those 11-12 years old or for females age 13-26 who have not been vaccinated or have not completed the vaccine series. Some have reservations about teens receiving the vaccine, claiming it can lead to promiscuity; however, the vaccine is not meant to promote sexual activity, but to prevent infection in the future.
While no known negative effects have been documented for vaccinations in women who are pregnant, more research is needed to support this. Do not get the vaccine if you are pregnant, and wait till after your pregnancy has completed. If you have questions about HPV and the vaccines available to prevent infection, contact Dr. Ayalon or call us at (818) 654-9312.
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