By Laura Badalamenti, NMD

HPV or human papillomavirus is a class of over 200 viruses, and many of these HPV viruses can be sexually transmitted. The types of HPV that are sexually transmitted can cause genital warts, and also there are about 15 types of HPV that can lead to cancer. HPV types 6 and 11 typically cause genital warts and HPV type 16 is the most common type to be associated with cancer. Women could get vaginal, cervical, or anal cancer and men could get penile or anal cancer. Also, if you have oral sex, HPV can be spread to the mouth and has been associated with oral cancer. Some HPV types can be passed in through non-genital skin contact and can cause plantar, common, and flat warts.

Genital warts are flesh colored skin eruptions around the genital area. They are usually painless and can be various sizes. In some cases, a person’s immune system may clear the virus and it may go away on its own, but in other cases it may need to be treated. Genital warts are not harmful if left untreated, but your doctor can treat them if they are bothersome. The doctor may freeze off the wart or apply a medicine to make it go away.

In many cases being infected with some types of HPV doesn’t cause outward symptoms, this is why women starting at age 21 are recommended to get regular pap smear exams. A pap smear is when the doctor takes a sample of the cells on your cervix to test for cervical cancer. If your pap smear is abnormal your doctor will check for HPV to see if that is the cause. Once women are 30 years old, HPV is routinely tested with pap smears. There is no test available right now for checking men or testing the anal or oral areas for HPV. There are vaccines available for HPV, but it is advisable to read on the risks/benefits of the vaccines. In many healthy people the immune system will clear the virus without any long-term effects. Also, HPV can be treatable with natural medicines and a Naturopathic doctor can help advise you on these therapies.

In case you missed our article What are STDs? you can check it out here.