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3 Telltale Symptoms of an HPV Infection

3 Telltale Symptoms of an HPV Infection

About 80% of sexually active women and 90% of sexually active men can expect to contract a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection at some point in their lives. Most of the time, your body clears the HPV before you even know you’re infected.

However, if HPV proliferates in your body, it could go on to cause complications, symptoms, and may even progress to cancer. A sexually transmitted HPV infection can cause cervical cancer, anal cancer, and even oral cancer, among other types.

At OB-GYN Associates of Marietta in Marietta and Woodstock, Georgia, our physicians and midwives recommend regular testing for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including a Pap smear and HPV test, if you’re sexually active. 

You may not even realize you have an HPV infection unless you get a test. How can you tell if you have an HPV infection? Following are three telltale symptoms.

1. No symptoms

Unfortunately, in most cases, HPV doesn’t cause symptoms at all. That’s why we routinely test you for HPV at the same time you have a Pap smear test. We give Pap tests to identify changes in your cervical cells that could indicate the presence or risk for cervical cancer.

If your Pap smear is positive (i.e., shows abnormal cellular changes) but your HPV test is negative, we simply recommend a follow-up Pap smear in 1-3 years. If, however, your Pap smear and HPV test are both positive, we perform immediate follow-up investigations, including colposcopy.

The HPV infection is responsible for more than 99% cases of cervical cancers. That’s why regularly testing for HPV as well as Pap smears is essential for every sexually active woman.

2. Warts or growths on genitals

The most obvious symptom of a sexually transmitted HPV infection is the appearance of benign growths (i.e., warts) on your genital area. You may develop warts on your vulva, in your vagina, or around the anal area.

Always inspect your partner visually before sexual intimacy. If they have evidence of any STD, including genital warts, it’s not safe to engage in sexual activity. With HPV, you don’t need to have penetrative sex to pass the virus. Simply fingering each other or engaging in oral sex can transmit HPV.

Warts are also highly contagious. If you have warts on your genitals and you touch them, and then touch another area of your body without thoroughly washing your hands, you could transmit the warts to that area, too.

3. Changes in your period

A regular period with a predictable flow is a sign of good health. When you have abnormally heavy bleeding, breakout bleeding, or pain, you need to find out why. In some cases, HPV infections that cause cervical cancer lead to symptoms such as:

Always let us know if something changes in your periods, your discharge, or your comfort. Other signs that need investigation include itching or bleeding in your vulvar or anal area.

Condoms aren’t enough

Like herpes, HPV can’t be fully prevented by using condoms. Condoms lower your risk for bacterial and other viral infections that occur by an exchange of bodily fluids. But HPV and herpes can spread simply by intimate touch.

If you want to prevent HPV infection, talk to us about getting a vaccine. Most women over age 26 won't benefit from a vaccine because you’ve probably already been exposed to and developed immunity from HPV. 

However, if you’re at high risk due to multiple partners or intravenous drug use, please let us know. You might benefit from a vaccine.

There’s no treatment for HPV, other than allowing your body to fight off the virus. However, if you develop complications such as genital warts or cancer, we offer a number of treatment options.

If you’re ready for an HPV test or vaccine, call our friendly and discreet team today at the office nearest you

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