Despite cervical cancer awareness efforts, there are often no recognizable HPV symptoms. As a result, many people do not even realize that they have the STD.
Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, is an STD which is believed to affect anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of people who are sexually active. HPV can be contracted through vaginal or anal sexual intercourse, as well as through oral sex. Unlike other STDs, the symptoms of HPV can be very hard to identify. While there are HPV symptoms for low-risk strains of the virus, it can be more challenging to recognize high-risk HPV.
Recognizable HPV Symptoms
Genital warts are one of the most common symptoms of HPV. The appearance of genital warts can greatly vary. They may be white, pink or flesh colored. Genital warts may feel like a bump and appear in cauliflower-like clusters, or it may be difficult to feel them at all. For low-risk strains of the virus, genital warts are typically one of the only HPV symptoms that will be experienced. The genital warts may also cause bleeding during sexual intercourse and skin irritation, however.
When There are No Symptoms of HPV
For high-risk strains of the STD, there are not any HPV symptoms. High-risk HPV strains are responsible for cervical cancer. High-risk HPV can also cause anal, penile, vulva, oral, throat, head, and neck cancers. Due to the lack of HPV symptoms for high-risk strains, women often do not realize that they may have the virus until they a Pap smear shows abnormal skin cell changes. Men rarely know that they have high-risk strains of the virus, as they will not experience any symptoms of HPV.
When HPV Symptoms Require Testing
Anytime an individual experiences what they believe to be symptoms of HPV, it is ideal to visit the gynecologist or doctor. Both men and women can be easily diagnosed with HPV if genital warts are visible. Regardless of HPV symptoms, sexually active women are recommended to have a Pap smear every one to two years. If the Pap smear comes back abnormal, the gynecologist will do further testing to see if HPV is to blame. This will often involve a colposcopy procedure. There is currently no test for men who experience symptoms of HPV.
Genital warts and the discomfort that they can cause are often the only HPV symptoms that men and women experience when they have this STD. Anytime a man or a woman experiences unusual sexual symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention. While HPV generally goes away on its own, diagnosing the STD early on is an essential key to preventing or treating cervical and other types of cancer.