HPV Exposure in Marriage - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 07-31-2008, 05:45 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi mamas,

I'm a little freaked out. This is new one for me...

I am married, have been in a monogamous relationship with DH for about 6-7 years. A month ago, he was diagnosed with genital warts. They appeared out of nowhere. He says he has never had a breakout of this kind in his life before. I know that the virus can lie dormant for years, am supposing this is what happened in his case.

I have never had a breakout of ANY kind nor had an abnormal pap smear, despite having unprotected sex with him for years. How is this possible? Is it a given that I am infected? I know I have been exposed, clearly - has my immune system just been hyper successful in kicking it out?

I am really freaking out about the big C here...I guess I am just looking for anyone who has information about what I can do, other than getting regular screenings, to protect myself.

Also, what about sex going forward? Of course we are abstaining until the warts are completely gone. But is he shedding the virus even after? Does it matter if he is, since I have already been exposed?

Ugh...

I am just really confused...You don't hear much about this kind of thing within a marriage. Honestly the doctors we have discussed this issue with (including an MD and an ND) have not been helpful at all.

If anyone has insight or experience with this kind of thing I'd appreciate it.

Thanks, D

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#2 of 6 Old 07-31-2008, 08:59 PM
 
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It is possible for the HPV virus to be dormant for the time span of your marriage, so your husband's outbreak does not necessarily mean he has been unfaithful. Even though he just noticed the warts recently, they could have been growing slowly for years (and flat) and just got large enough to be obvious.

Even though you have been exposed, this does not mean that you will have any clinical signs of HPV disease. Your pap could continue to be normal and you may never notice any warts. Everyone's immune system reacts differently to the virus. Continue to get regular gyn exams and yearly paps, but other than that there is nothing specific you can do. HPV is a virus so there is no "cure". But, the stronger your immune system is the better chance you have to fight the virus off. Smokers have a terrible time clearing HPV so if either you or your husband smoke now would be the perfect time to quit.

It is possible to shed the virus between outbreaks. And condoms don't offer great protection because the virus sheds from any genital skin, not just the area covered by the condom. Abstaining during an outbreak is probably a good idea because any friction on the warts can cause discomfort and bleeding (plus the treatment involves a certain amount of discomfort). Once the outbreak is gone, you can resume normal activities. You have most likely already been exposed and share the virus.

Feel free to PM me if you have more questions.
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#3 of 6 Old 07-31-2008, 09:04 PM
 
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big hugs... I'm so sorry to hear that you are going through this.

As far as the big "C" is concerned, I assume you're referring to cancer. With all the talk about the HPV vaccine and cancer, it would make one think that any HPV virus would greatly increase your chance of cancer, but there are only a very few strains of the HPV virus that cause cancer, out of over 100 different strains. Plus, I dont think those cancer-causing strains actually cause genital warts. So if all of my info is correct, you don't need to worry about cancer.

Other than that, I really don't know much about HPV and transmission in a marriage. I do think there are medications you can take (like valtrex) that can reduce the risk. Maybe someone else will have more helpful information.

If it were me, I'd request that my dh get a second opinion by a different doctor though. This is a huge deal and I can't imagine how you're feeling. I would definately want to be SURE that it was HPV.

I do however, think it is unlikely that you can catch it if he hasn't shown any symptoms up until now, though. I would just abstain like you have been until everything has cleared up and maybe get a new doctor who is willing to listen to your concerns and help you figure out a plan to protect you in the future.

HTH!
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#4 of 6 Old 07-31-2008, 09:09 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you Kate3, I really appreciate the response.

I guess I am just trying to wrap my head around this - normal pap smears, no warts, yet unprotected sex for 7 years with someone with HPV. You're saying that is clinically possible?

Oh and yes, non-smoking here, thank goodness.

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#5 of 6 Old 07-31-2008, 09:20 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nurturebaby View Post
big hugs... I'm so sorry to hear that you are going through this.

As far as the big "C" is concerned, I assume you're referring to cancer. With all the talk about the HPV vaccine and cancer, it would make one think that any HPV virus would greatly increase your chance of cancer, but there are only a very few strains of the HPV virus that cause cancer, out of over 100 different strains. Plus, I dont think those cancer-causing strains actually cause genital warts. So if all of my info is correct, you don't need to worry about cancer.

Other than that, I really don't know much about HPV and transmission in a marriage. I do think there are medications you can take (like valtrex) that can reduce the risk. Maybe someone else will have more helpful information.

If it were me, I'd request that my dh get a second opinion by a different doctor though. This is a huge deal and I can't imagine how you're feeling. I would definately want to be SURE that it was HPV.

I do however, think it is unlikely that you can catch it if he hasn't shown any symptoms up until now, though. I would just abstain like you have been until everything has cleared up and maybe get a new doctor who is willing to listen to your concerns and help you figure out a plan to protect you in the future.

HTH!
Thank you...yes this is extremely hard

Especially when you feel, you did everything right, no unprotected sex until marriage, blah blah...we women are tested for HPV (via paps) all the time and it feels so crappy, unfair, I feel like we bear the brunt of the diagnoses.

Is this basically the deal - men spread and spread, and we are treated?

No man gets annual testing for this nor does he have to worry about cancer and the repercussions.

I digress though, please forgive the rant. I do not blame him I am just really freaked out and sad.

He was seen by one doc who diagnosed the outbreak as warts. It was a primary care / internal medicine type person. Maybe a dermatologist would be a good second opinion? I think you have a good point there.

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#6 of 6 Old 07-31-2008, 09:58 PM
 
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Quote:
I do think there are medications you can take (like valtrex) that can reduce the risk.
Valtrex is for herpes (HSV, not HPV). It won't help for warts.
Quote:
I guess I am just trying to wrap my head around this - normal pap smears, no warts, yet unprotected sex for 7 years with someone with HPV. You're saying that is clinically possible?
Yes, it's possible. The warts and abnormal paps are symptoms of the virus. You can still be infected and just not show clinical signs of disease.
There is no HPV test for men. Diagnosis is made by visual inspection only. You can have a biopsy of the wart taken and sent to pathology to be ablsolutey certain but this is hardly ever done. Genital warts have a classic look to them.

HPV and genital warts have been linked to penile cancer in men, but penile cancer is a very rare disease. The cervix of a woman contains cells that are easily penetrated by the virus. That's why paps show up as abnormal in women. There is no equivalent in men. So yes, men spread easily, women bear the brunt.

I'm sorry you are going through this. Take care.
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