HPV treatment, diagnosis & prescriptions
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Can a doctor diagnose HPV on Maple?
A Maple doctor can diagnose genital warts during a virtual appointment. During the consultation the doctor may ask you relevant questions about your sexual history and your symptoms. With that information, the doctor will be able to present you with treatment options to consider, order prescriptions, and more. In some cases, the doctor may send you for further testing to rule out any other health complications. Find out more on how Maple doctors can help with genital warts, here.
Can I get a prescription on Maple?
Yes, our physicians can prescribe medications online during your consultation. Once you accept a prescription, you’ll have the option to pick it up from any pharmacy or to have it delivered right to your door at no additional cost.
You can visit our How it Works page to learn more.
What is HPV?
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection. HPV is a viral infection, and there are over 100 types of HPV.
Each type can affect the body in a different way, and around 40 kinds affect the genital area. Of those, some types of HPV cause cancer, and some types of HPV cause genital warts. Others go away completely on their own, and many people who have HPV don’t know it, as they don’t show any symptoms at all.
An estimated 75% of sexually active Canadians have had HPV once in their lifetime.
What are the symptoms of HPV?
Most people with human papillomavirus (HPV) don’t have symptoms at all.
Because there are so many different types of HPV, each type is identified by a number.
HPV types 6 and 11 cause genital warts. They’re considered a low risk version of human papillomavirus. That’s because genital warts (small bumps on the skin of the genitals and anus that resemble cauliflower) are relatively harmless, although sometimes uncomfortable. They can be removed in the same way that a wart on your hands or feet can be treated. Most notably, HPV 6 and 11 do not lead to cancer. Still, it’s important to talk to a doctor right away if you have untreated genital warts.
In men, warts are found on the penis, scrotum, or anus. In women, warts can grow on the cervix, vulva, vaginal walls, anus, and in the general pubic area.
High-risk HPV, strains 16 and 18, can lead to penile and anal cancer, as well as cancer of the vulva and throat. Unfortunately high-risk HPV doesn’t have any symptoms in the early stages before becoming cancerous. That’s why regular checkups and screenings are so important.
If HPV becomes cancer, symptoms eventually appear that vary according to where the cancer is present. HPV can lead to penile cancer, anal cancer, throat cancer, and cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is the cancer most commonly linked to HPV. Symptoms include:
- Discharge that’s either abnormal or noticeably increased compared to average vaginal discharge. Often foul-smelling.
- Vaginal bleeding between periods, after menopause and after sex, or periods that are unusually long/heavy
- Pain during sex
- Difficulty urinating or having bowel movements
- Pain in the pelvic area or lower back
- Swelling in one or both legs
- Poor appetite and unexplained weight loss
Penile Cancer affects less than 1% of men with HPV. Symptoms include:
- A painful sore on the penis
- Thickening and discoloration of the skin on the penis
- Foul smelling discharge
- Reddish rash under the foreskin
- Ulcers or sores that may bleed
- Lumps under the groin
Anal cancer symptoms include:
- Rectal itching, pain or bleeding
- Abnormal anal discharge
- Feeling of fullness in the anus
- A lump at the opening of the anus
- Changes in bowel habits or appearance
- Swollen lymph nodes near the groin or anus
Like other forms, oral HPV won’t cause symptoms in the mouth most of the time, but it can lead to throat cancer if undetected. Symptoms include:
- Changes in voice
- Sore throat
- Trouble swallowing
- Lump in the throat or neck
- White patches/sores in the mouth and throat
- Trouble breathing
- Bleeding in the nose or mouth
- Ear or jaw pain
- Swollen lymph nodes
How is HPV transmitted?
In both women and men, HPV symptoms are usually nonexistent, making it easy to pass the virus on unknowingly. HPV transmission can happen during vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has HPV.
Some people are at higher risk for contracting the high-risk HPV. Those who are immunocompromised or have other STIs, are smokers, have given birth several times, take oral contraceptives, or receive anal sex are more vulnerable to various types of cancer linked to HPV.
Using condoms, dental dams, and having regular checkups so that you know your status can help reduce the risk of transmitting or contracting HPV.
What causes HPV?
HPV is caused by a virus that enters the body through skin to skin contact via a small cut or abrasion on the skin. That’s what makes it especially easy to pass on during sexual activity, which is often how it is contracted. Safer sex, through the use of condoms and dental dams, does a lot to help with HPV prevention.
How is HPV diagnosed?
There are tests doctors can perform to detect early signs of cancer caused by HPV. In women, symptoms are caught during a Pap test, where a doctor takes cell samples from the cervix and vagina for testing. Abnormal cells in the cervix indicate that a person has the high-risk form of HPV, where the long term effect can be cell changes leading to cancer. If caught early, these cells can be treated before cancer starts to form.
A DNA test can also help determine the presence of high-risk HPV in the cervix.
The presence of genital warts can help doctors make an HPV diagnosis.
In men, other than the presence of genital warts, there is no sure way to screen for HPV prior to cancer symptoms.
How is HPV treated?
If left without treatment, some HPV strains can become cancerous. There are HPV vaccines: Gardasil, Gardasil 9 (for females and males), and Cervarix (for females only). All three are administered via injection, and can be useful in both people who have a certain HPV already, and those who don’t, since it can protect from contraction of any new types of strains that don’t already exist in the body.
Sometimes, the immune system can rid the body of HPV without medication.
If high-risk HPV turns cancerous, treatment varies depending on a number of factors, like the type of cancer, and other health conditions a person may have.Your doctor can give options for the best course of action if you are diagnosed with an HPV related cancer.
Genital warts from low-risk HPV have several treatment options:
- Creams, like Aldara or Zyclara, that help your body heal genital warts
- Condylox, which your doctor applies for you. It helps destroy the wart tissue.
- Veregen, a cream specifically for external warts, especially around the anus
- Trichloroacetic acid, which burns the warts off
- Removals via lazer, surgery, cryotherapy, or electrocautery
What is the difference between HPV and herpes?
HPV and herpes are both viral infections that are often transmitted during sex. People with herpes eventually show symptoms, like sores on the mouth or genitals. People with HPV on the other hand can sometimes never have symptoms.
Most importantly, HPV can lead to cancer, while herpes doesn’t. Both conditions require medical attention, so if you’re worried about the presence of either, speak to your doctor.
What is Maple?
With Maple, you can start talking to a doctor about your symptoms in a matter of minutes. We’re a healthcare app for fast, convenient 24/7 access to Canadian doctors.
You simply log in, tap a button to request a consultation, and we’ll immediately connect you to a doctor via live chat or video. You can visit our How it Works page to learn more.
Our doctors can assess symptoms, and provide treatment, including prescriptions as necessary.
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