What is HPV? (Human Papillomavirus)
- The human body contains the common virus, human papillomavirus (HPV), in many parts. In fact there are more than 100 strains of Human Papillomavirus Infection.These even include HPV that caused warts on face, feet, hands and toes. Around 30 types of HPV can harm your private parts, like the vulva, vagina, cervix, penis, scrotum, rectum, and anus.Almost everyone has HPV at some point.Human Papillomavirus Infection SymptomsIt most commonly presents in Genital Warts. It is a common sexually transmitted infection.
The sexually transmitted infection (STI) HPV, which affects your genitals, spreads through skin-to-skin contact. STIs can be uncomfortable, but most genital wart strains are harmless, even the ones that cause warts.
Some types of HPV can cause cancer, like cervical cancer. But if doctors find it early and treat it, they can usually prevent the cancer.
Do all warts have HPV?
The answer is yes, with a caveat. There is a difference between wart causing HPV and the HPV that can progress to cervical cancer.
Certain strains can lead to warts, such as genital warts, are undesirable and unattractive. However, they are generally harmless.. HPV types 6 and 11 most often cause genital warts.
Different strains of HPV lead to:
- Flat warts
- Plantar warts
- Regular warts
- Periungual and subungual warts
HPV causes all warts, but not every HPV strain produces warts. The HPV variant that may develop into cancer doesn’t produce warts.
How is cervical cancer and HPV related?
Certain types of HPV can lead to alterations in the cells of your cervix, a condition known as cervical dysplasia. The cervix is the passage that connects your vagina and uterus. If not treated, cervical dysplasia can sometimes progress to cervical cancer.
For those under 30, most HPV infections resolve themselves. By the time you reach 30, a Pap test (a screening procedure for cervical cancer) can help determine the frequency of your HPV testing. If your test results are positive, you might be at an increased risk and require more regular testing.
It’s crucial to have regular Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer. However, it’s also vital to understand that having HPV or cervical dysplasia doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop cancer.
Who can contract HPV?
Anyone who engages in sexual or genital contact with an infected person can contract HPV. You can transmit it through vaginal, oral, or anal sex, and even through genital-to-genital contact.
It is more prevalent in high risk type of unprotected sex. Your chances of being exposed to HPV and your risk of contracting a type of HPV increase.
HPV symptoms in men
The health risks associated with it are generally lower for men and individuals assigned male at birth (AMAB). For those who are AMAB, HPV may result in genital warts, but most infections resolve independently. Although HPV can cause cancers of the penis, anus, head, and neck, these are relatively uncommon. Consequently, healthcare providers typically do not recommend HPV tests and Pap smears for individuals assigned male at birth.
Nonetheless, if you’re HIV positive, your immune system might struggle more to combat this infection. Men who have sex with other men are at a higher risk of contracting high-risk HPV strains. These strains can potentially lead to cancer. In such a scenario, your healthcare provider might suggest an anal Pap test.
Everyone should prevent HPV by getting vaccinated and practicing safer sex.
HPV symptoms in women
Usually, it is a big danger for women and AFAB individuals. If not treated, high-risk HPV can turn into cervical cancer. Pap tests and HPV screenings can identify early signs of precancerous cell alterations to avert cervical cancer. Non-hazardous types can also result in genital warts in women and people AFAB.
Prevalence of HPV
HPV is the most prevalent sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Studies show over 14 million individuals contracting the virus annually.
If you’re sexually active and not vaccinated, the CDC states that you will likely contract a common disease. This infection is likely to happen at some point in your life. Most never know they have the virus.
What are HPV symptoms?
When it affects your private parts, it often doesn’t show any signs. But if it does, the most common sign is warts in that area.
Rough HPV warts appear in the genital area. Symptoms may show up weeks, months, or years after getting infected with HPV. Genital warts can spread to others, but they don’t cause any harm.
High-risk variants of HPV frequently do not exhibit symptoms until they have developed into cancer.
Cervical Cancer Symptoms
Cervical cancer symptoms can vary from person to person, and some individuals may not experience any symptoms at all. However, common symptoms of cervical cancer may include:
1. Abnormal vaginal bleeding:
2. Unusual vaginal discharge
3. Pelvic pain
4. Pain during sexual intercourse
Cervical cancer can affect bathroom habits, like peeing or pooping. But other things can also cause these problems. Regular check-ups, like Pap smears, can find cervical cancer early and make treatment easier.
HPV mainly causes cervical cancer, which is the most common. Other types of cancer linked to it are much less common. These include Penile, Vaginal, Vulvar, and Anal cancer. Not everyone with HPV will get cancer.
How is HPV transmitted?
People transmit it through skin-to-skin contact during sexual activities such as vaginal, oral, and anal sex. If your private parts, such as your vulva, vagina, penis, or anus, touch an infected person, you can get an infection. The virus can be transmitted via hand-to-genital touch and penetration.
How readily is HPV spread?
It is very contagious because it spreads through touching skin directly. You or your partner can get the virus without sharing any body fluids. Your partner can give you the infection, or you can give it to them, even without ejaculating. It can be transmitted thru vaginal, anal or oral sex.
Diagnosis and Examination
How is HPV detected?
- A medical professional can usually identify genital warts simply by visual examination. High-risk HPV types do not produce symptoms, so you’ll probably discover an infection during a regular Pap smear or screening.
- Pap smear checks for cervical cancer and precancerous cells that can turn into cancer if not treated. High-risk HPV cancer is nearly always the cause of HPV related cancers.
- HPV Examination: This test can identify the high-risk variants of the virus that could potentially result in cervical cancer if not treated.
- No FDA-approved tests for identifying it on the vulva, vagina, penis, scrotum, rectum, or anus in the US. Cancers linked to it in these body regions are far less prevalent than cervical cancer.
- Additional methods that can identify unusual cells potentially resulting from an infection encompass
- Colposcopy is done if your Pap smear shows abnormal cells or if you have tested positive. In this process, a lit tool known as a colposcope enlarges your cervix, making abnormal cells visible. Your healthcare professional might extract these cells and send them to a laboratory for precancer or cancer indications (biopsy).
- VIA is used when Pap smears or HPV tests are not available in certain areas. It involves visually inspecting with acetic acid. Through VIA, your healthcare professional applies a solution based on vinegar to your cervix. This solution causes abnormal cells to become white, making them more noticeable.
Therapies cannot eliminate the virus from your body. However, they can eradicate any noticeable warts on your genital area and irregular cells in your cervix. Genital warts treatment may encompass:
- Cryosurgery: Utilizing liquid nitrogen to freeze or obliterate abnormal cells and warts.
- Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP): Employing a unique wire loop to excise warts or abnormal cells from the cervix.
- Electrocautery: Eliminating warts using an electric current.
- Laser therapy: Leveraging intense light to annihilate warts or any abnormal cells.
- Conization or Cold knife cone biopsy: The process of removing a cone-shaped piece of cervical tissue that has abnormal cells.
- Medicated cream prescription: The use of a therapeutic cream applied directly to the warts to eliminate them.
- Application of Trichloroacetic acid (TCA): The process of using a chemical compound that effectively destroys warts.
Only a minor percentage of individuals infected with high-risk HPV will develop abnormal cervical cells necessitating treatment.
Is it preventable?
The only absolute method to prevent it is to refrain from sexual activity. Many people want to lower their chances of getting it and cervical cancer while still having a healthy sex life.
Your risk can be minimized if you:
- Receive the HPV vaccination.
- To prevent it and health problems, vaccinate yourself before having sex.
- The FDA has approved three vaccines for prevention, but since 2017, only Gardasil 9 is available in the U.S. This vaccine combats strains that cause cervical cancer and genital warts. Individuals between the ages of 9 and 45 are approved for it.
- Vaccination could potentially shield you from strains you have not yet encountered. Ask your healthcare provider for their recommendation on getting vaccinated.
- Undergo regular screenings and tests. Early detection and treatment non-normal cells can significantly hamper the growth of cervical cancer.
- Doctors recommend beginning regular Pap smears at the age of 21.
- From the age of 30 to 65, you might only need routine Pap smears, routine tests, or a mix of both. If you’re over 65, the need for continued screening may vary.
- Engage in safe sexual practices.
- Condoms and dental dams don’t fully stop STI transmission, but they offer some protection against semen and vaginal secretions. Regular use of these barriers during sexual encounters can reduce your risk of acquiring an infection.
- Safeguard your sexual partner(s).
- Inform your partner if you have the condition so they can also undergo testing. You might need to refrain from sexual intercourse while undergoing treatment for genital warts or high-risk variants. Consult with your medical expert about the precautions you should take to prevent an infection.
Is there a cure?
No. There is no known cure. Still, your immune system effectively eliminates the virus for you. The body eliminates approximately 90% of infections within one to two years.
Is HPV contagious your entire life?
When your immune system kills the virus, you cannot spread it. However, you can still pass on the HPV virus even if you no longer have genital warts. This can happen as long as the virus is still present in your body.
- The information here is only for information purposes. Don’t use it instead of advice from medical professionals. If you have questions about a medical condition, ask a doctor. And don’t ignore or dismiss medical advice because of something you saw on this website.