General Practice 2022

HPV in women: what é, symptoms and treatment

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HPV in women: what é, symptoms and treatment
HPV in women: what é, symptoms and treatment

HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), caused by the human papillomavirus, which affects women who have had intimate contact without using a condom with someone who has the virus.

After a woman is infected by the HPV virus, the formation of small warts similar to a small cauliflower occurs, which can cause itching, especially in the intimate region. However, warts can appear in other places such as the mouth or anus if you have had unprotected oral or anal sex with an infected person.

Because it is a viral infection, there is no medicine that can lead to a cure, and therefore the treatment is done with the objective of removing the warts with specific ointments or laser sessions.

HPV symptoms

Most women do not have any symptoms of HPV, this is because the warts characteristic of this infection can take months or years to appear, however contamination of intimate partners can happen, even if there are no signs of infection.

When symptoms of HPV are present can be reported:

  • Warts of various sizes on the vulva, labia majora or minora, vaginal wall, cervix or anus;
  • Burning at the site of warts;
  • Itchy private parts;
  • Warts on lips, cheeks, tongue, roof of mouth or throat;
  • Plaque formation by small united warts.

If there is a suspicion of HPV, it is recommended to look for a gynecologist, so that the warts are evaluated and can be removed, because when this condition is not treated, it can favor the appearance of cancer of the mouth and cervix.

How to catch it

HPV infection is normally transmitted sexually, with or without penetration, which means that the HPV virus can be transmitted through unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex, and even through direct contact with the affected skin or mucosa. Although less frequent, the virus can also be transmitted during childbirth, from mother to baby. Learn more about how you get HPV.

How to confirm the diagnosis

HPV is often diagnosed on a cytology test, known as a pap smear, since the symptoms that the infection causes are rare. In addition, Pap smears are also performed when HPV warts are located on the cervix and, therefore, cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Other tests that may be necessary for the diagnosis of HPV are colposcopy and the application of acetic acid, for example, which allow all warts, even if they are very small. Check out all the tests that can be used to identify HPV.

How the treatment is done

The treatment for HPV consists of removing the warts with the use of specific ointments, such as imiquimod and podofilox, for example, according to the gynecologist's recommendation, for a period of 6 months to 2 years, depending on the size of warts and extent of lesions.

Because it is a virus, the treatment of HPV only aims to reduce the woman's warts and discomfort, so for the virus to be eliminated from the body, the gynecologist accompanying the case may indicate the use of medicines to strengthen the immune system such as interferon, in addition to the use of vitamin supplements.

However, in most women, the body itself ends up eliminating the virus after 1 to 2 years. In cases where the body cannot clear the virus, the infection can progress to another disease, such as cancer.

For some women, after medical evaluation, treatment by cauterization, laser or scalpel may be indicated, in which the warts will be removed one by one. See how these procedures are done.

How to prevent HPV

One of the best ways to prevent HPV infection, at least for the most serious forms of the virus, is vaccination with the HPV vaccine, which can be done by SUS in girls between 9 and 14 years old, or particularly in girls and women between 9 and 45 years of age.

Furthermore, it is important that the woman undergoes gynecological exams and cytology in the periods indicated by the gynecologist.

If the woman has several partners, it is recommended to use the female condom for penetration and the male condom if oral sex is given to an infected man, thus reducing the risk of transmission of the infection. Still, condom use may not be completely safe, especially if it's misplaced, breaks, or doesn't fully cover the site of infection. See more about the female condom and how to put it on correctly.

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