Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the United States. OB/GYN and pediatrician Dr. Sara O’Heron and her expert team at Lifeboat Medical Associates in Peachtree City, Georgia test for and vaccinate against HPV. Dr. O’Heron also has specialized training in HPV education. To learn more about protecting yourself from HPV, call or book an appointment online.
What is HPV?
There are more than 200 types of HPV, some of which cause health problems such as genital warts and cervical cancer. However, most people with HPV don’t show any signs or symptoms at all. In many cases, your body defeats the virus before problems arise.
HPV spreads through sexual contact. You can get HPV from having sex with an infected partner even if they don’t have any symptoms of HPV. When symptoms do appear, they may include:
- A small bump or group of bumps on the genitals (genital warts)
- Common warts on the hands
- Plantar warts on the feet
Over time, infection with certain HPV strains can cause precancerous growths to develop on your cervix. Dr. O’Heron can detect precancerous changes to your cervix during routine Pap tests at Lifeboat Medical Associates. Without treatment, these growths may turn into cervical cancer.
Who is at risk of getting HPV?
HPV is extremely common, affecting about 79 million Americans in their late teens and early 20s. Anyone who is sexually active can get HPV, even if you have only one partner. However, your risk for HPV increases with multiple partners, or if you have sex with someone who has had multiple partners.
What is the HPV vaccine?
HPV vaccines don’t prevent you from getting all types of HPV, but they do protect you against certain strains of the virus that are most likely to cause cancer or genital warts. Dr. O’Heron is an expert educator on HPV and was the first physician in the country to provide HPV immunization.
HPV vaccines come in a series of two to three shots, depending on your age. People ages 15-26 need three shots over the course of six months, while those ages 9-14 need only two shots spaced six months apart.
How can I prevent HPV?
All people ages 9-26 can get the HPV vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an HPV vaccination for boys and girls at age 11 or 12.
In addition to vaccination, it’s crucial for women ages 21-65, or sexually active women of any age, to get screened for cervical cancer with routine Pap tests. Women over age 30 may also get screened for HPV during a Pap test.
For more information on HPV screening, prevention, or vaccination, please click here.
Call Lifeboat Medical Associates or book an appointment online to get an HPV assessment.