Diagnosing and Treating HPV
Because HPV often does not cause genital warts symptoms, or even any symptoms at all, many people may be infected with the HPV virus and not know it. Although your body will usually be able to successfully fight off the virus on its own, when it doesn't, you are at a greater risk of developing cervical cancer. If you do develop genital warts from HPV, there are a number of genital warts treatment available, so explore your options.
Diagnosing HPV and Genital Warts
If your HPV infection has caused you to develop genital warts, then it is likely that your doctor will be able to diagnose you simply by examining the warts. Since it is possible for some warts to be so small that they are not visible to the naked eye, your doctor may swab the area with acetic acid (white vinegar). This will turn any invisible warts white, thereby allowing your doctor to know just how much area is infected and where she will need to treat you.
HPV in men is not nearly as problematic as it is for women. Although men infected with the HPV virus may develop cancer of the penis or anus, this occurs very rarely. In women, though, the HPV virus can lead to cervical cancer. In fact, almost all women who develop cervical cancer have HPV. However, just because you have HPV does not necessarily mean you will develop cervical cancer.
Testing for Cervical Cancer
Those strains of HPV associated with cervical cancer generally produce no HPV symptoms. Regular Pap tests, along with an HPV test for women over 30, can help detect the presence of any abnormal cervical cells allowing you to take action before it's too late.
During a Pap test, a sample of cervical cells are taken and then examined in a lab under a microscope. Results of a Pap smear are classified either as normal, abnormal (meaning that there have been some changes in your cervical cells which require further investigation), or borderline or inconclusive (these are cells that are not normal but are not necessarily abnormal either).
Women who are over 30 or who receive a borderline or inconclusive result on their Pap smear may also have an HPV test done. This test can be done on the same sample of cervical cells used in the Pap smear or on a second sample of cervical cells. Unlike a Pap test, which involves a visual diagnosis of the cells, an HPV test actually looks for the presence of HPV DNA in your cervical cells. Depending on the results of your tests, you may need further assessment or, possibly, treatment for cervical cancer.
Testing for HPV in men is usually not done. This is because men are much more likely to be asymptomatic and therefore not aware of the virus. Additionally, the skin on the head of the penis tends to be too thick to obtain a proper cell sample.
Genital Warts Treatment
There is no HPV treatment or cure for the virus. There is also no cure for genital warts. However, genital warts can be treated, either at home or at a doctor's office.
The first course of action for many people with genital warts is topical medications. This type of treatment comes in either a gel or cream form and usually works by attacking and breaking down the wart tissue. Podophyllin is a particularly strong topical medication that needs to be applied at the doctor's office. However, this is an older type of treatment and is not as widely used nowadays.
For those looking for some genital warts home treatment, you can ask your doctor to prescribe either podofilox (Condylox) or imiquimod (Aldara). Both of these topical medications you can apply yourself at home. However, if you are pregnant, it is not recommended that you use either podophyllin or podofilox as both can be absorbed by your skin and possibly cause birth defects in your child. Additionally, Aldara is designed to be used only on external genital warts.
It is also important to note that there is a difference between genital warts and regular warts. The strains of HPV that cause genital warts are different from those strains that cause warts on other parts of your body. Moreover, genital warts appear on areas of your body that are much more sensitive. Therefore, you should never use regular, over-the-counter wart treatments for genital warts.
How to Remove Genital Warts
Although topical medications are fairly simple and painless to use, they do require regular daily applications for a number of weeks. If you prefer to have your genital warts removed quickly, then you have a few options.
For small genital warts, your doctor can remove them through:
- Cryosurgery (freezing them off)
- Electrocautery (burning them off
- Trichloracetic Acid (TCA)
All of these genital wart removal
treatments can be done in your doctor's office.
Genital warts that are especially large and hard to remove may need to be surgically removed through laser surgery. This type of treatment, though, will require you to go to a trained specialist. Additionally, laser surgery tends to be the most expensive treatment for genital warts.
Even if you have received genital warts treatment for your warts, it is still entirely possible for them to return, facilitating the need for repeat treatment.