Living With HPV

Living With HPV

Living with HPV for most, is nothing special, if only because the virus is so widespread and affects such a large percentage of the population, that most of those infected with it are unaware of its presence. In fact, more than 3 out of every four people are apt to be infected with the virus at some point in their lifetime.

HPV, the Human Papilloma Virus, is not a single type of virus. There are hundreds of different types of HPV, about 40 of which fall into the classification of genital HPV. Genital HPV is spread either by an exchange or bodily fluids, or simply by genital contact. The other types of HPV are most often transmitted through skin contact.

It's mostly young people who become infected with genital HPV, with several millions of new cases estimated to occur in the United States each year. It's virtually impossible to tell who may be a carrier of HPV, as the majority who are carriers are unaware of it, and are not experiencing any particular problems in living with HPV.

Cervical Cancer A Danger - When symptoms are present in genital HPV, the symptoms most often manifest themselves in the form of genital warts. These warts are by and large non-cancerous, but when discovered should always be subject to medical examination, as the possibility of cancer, though remote, is always present. Some types of genital HPV are more prone to causing cancer than are others, and women are at greater risk in such cases. The most common type of cancer caused by HPV is cervical cancer, a cancer which causes the death of several thousand women each year. HPV is not the only cause of cervical cancer but is certainly one of the major causes. This type of cancer usually does not have any early symptoms, so it is necessary to rely on periodic papanicolaou smears, "pap smears", to determine if there are any abnormal cells in the cervix, which if caught early can be removed. Removal of the cells does not necessarily mean the HPV has been removed as well, this being rarely the case.

Safe Sex Is The Best Protection - The best means of preventing HPV is safe sex, which ultimately involves using a condom. There are vaccines available, most commonly given to young girls, but available for men as well, which offer a measure of protection against some of the more troubling types of HPV, though not against all of the hundreds of different types. Insofar as women are concerned, the best prevention is a combination of safe sex, vaccination, and regular periodic screening.

At Risk - Those most at risk of contracting HPV are women in their mid-twenties and younger. While sexual activity certainly plays a part, there are some who believe younger women are for some reason biologically more susceptible to the virus. Those with a weakened immune system are also more susceptible, often significantly so.

Our Immune System Fights The Good Fight - While there is no cure for HPV, we can rely on the immune system to take care of the situation in the majority of cases. The actions of the immune system is one reason why the vast majority of HPV infection show no symptoms, nor do they not develop dangerous symptoms. It is a healthy immune system more than anything else which makes living with HPV possible, and even uneventful. There isn't always a lot we can do to protect ourselves from a virus, aside from vaccinations, or living in a closet. As is the case with so many things that can pose a threat, leading a healthy lifestyle is often the best means of prevention one can take.