What You Need to Know About HPV and Single-use Speculums
What is HPV?
In the recent years, and through incredible advancements in technology and medicine, the threat of the deadliest of all STD’s has all but gone by the wayside. However, in the wake of the educational and medical uprising to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS, a new threat has emerged to take the place of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, accounts for a group of more than 150 interrelated viruses that have quietly become among the most common sexually transmitted diseases affecting young people in America. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently stated that there are currently 79 million Americans, most in their teens or early twenties, infected with HPV. In most cases, HPV will resolve on its own and the patient will suffer little to no noticeable medical trauma. However, in extreme cases, the disease can lead to genital warts and cancer.
How HPV Spreads
Although sexual activity is the most common method of transmitting HPV, it may come as a bit of a surprise that HPV can actually be spread in non-sexual ways as well. HPV can be spread through several non-sexual, but intimate, skin-to-skin contact methods, including spreading the virus to an infant while giving birth.
Some types of HPV can manifest as warts that appear on the genitals of the infected person. A healthcare provider can usually make a visual diagnosis upon inspection of these warts, but they vary in appearance and may be single bumps, a group of bumps, have raised or flat profiles, or have irregular shapes like that of a cauliflower. The types of HPV that cause genital warts are not the same as the ones that cause cancer.
In certain cases, although it may take years or even decades to develop, certain strains of HPV can cause cancer of the cervix, vagina, penis, anus, and even the throat. It is said that HPV cancers do not usually manifest symptoms until the cancer is almost fully developed – timing which is obviously problematic for treating such a serious disease.
One of the best ways to prevent HPV is with a vaccination. However, in order for a vaccination to be effective, it must be done on boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 13 years old. Once teenagers are older than 12 or 13, vaccination is not an option. Once you are sexually active, having monogamous sex and using a latex condom every single time can also be effective measures of prevention.
Testing and Diagnosis
Typically, a medical provider can diagnose HPV based on its appearance, and through a series of tests and lab analysis. However, many medical providers rely on the use of a vaginal speculum in order to properly diagnose both HPV and to get access to the areas most affected and susceptible to cancer.
A speculum is a medical device that is inserted into bodily orifices, and assists with opening the orifice in order to allow a thorough exam. A speculum generally takes the shape of the cavity being examined, and for years, they were made of surgical grade steel and reused after undergoing a sanitation process. Because HPV is so easily spread, and more studies have recently shown that the virus has the ability to live outside the host and transmit to patients in non-sexual ways, medical providers are doing as much as possible to prevent the inadvertent spread of the virus. This has led providers to use more sanitary options, such as the single-use lighted vaginal speculums created by OBP Medical.
These devices are constructed of highly durable materials with built-in lighting, and are disposable after a single-use, thus eliminating the potential that HPV or other STD’s can be spread among patients after diagnosis. For this reason, we recommend that patients talk to their providers about using single-use speculums for their own safety.
If you have questions or concerns about OBP Medical products, or if you are a medical provider looking for more information on how you can protect your patients through the use of single-use speculums, contact us today!