Human Papillomavirus Infection or HPV
What is HPV?
HPV or Human Papillomavirus Infection is a common sexually transmitted viral infection. It causes mucous membranes or skin growths. It is said that there are more than 100 types of HPV and some particular kinds of HPV infection cause different kinds of cancer like cervical cancer or cancers of the vagina, vulva, penis, anus and some cause warts. These infections are mostly transmitted through skin to skin contact or sexually. Certain genital HPV infection does not affect the individual or cause any health problems. This infection is very common among people who are sexually active or possess a few sexual partners.
HPV infection mostly affects the immune system of the individual, thereby creating warts. Warts differ in appearances and it’s appearances mostly depend upon the type of HPV that has been affected. Some of the common HPV symptoms are as follows:
- Flat warts: These are flat-topped and mild raised lesions. Flat warts appear on any part of the body. However, most men get on the beard region and for children, they appear on the face. Women get flat warts on the legs.
- Plantar warts: These are solid grainy growth that appears on the balls or heels of the feet. Plantar warts have chances to cause discomfort.
- Common warts: These appear as raised, uneven bumps and mostly appear on the fingers and hands. In the majority of cases, common warts do not look obvious but remain painful and prone to bleeding or injury.
- Genital warts: Genital warts appear as small bumps or stem-like protrusions. These are flat lesions that rarely cause pain or discomfort but remain tender with itching.
Who is at Risk?
It is very common for any person to get acquainted with HPV infections. Some of the major HPV risk factors include:
- Personal contact: When an individual is not wearing protection while touching another person’s warts or before approaching surfaces that are exposed to HPV like swimming pools or public showers have high chances of HPV infection.
- Damaged skin: Regions of skin that are opened or punctured have high chances to get cultivate common warts.
- Weakened immune systems: Individuals with weak immune systems have high risks of HPV infections. In most cases, immune systems get weakened by AIDS or HIV or due to the intake of immune-suppressing drugs after organ transplantation.
Other risk factors include having several intimate partners or having a relationship (sex) with an individual who has had several intimate partners.
HPV infection is mostly passed from skin to skin connection of the genitals or through sexual intercourse. Most HPV infections cause warts on certain regions of the body like genitals, feet, and hands and are usually benign. Some are dangerous and cause certain kinds of cancer. It can affect any sexually active individual. In some cases, infected individuals remain asymptomatic and do not see any symptoms of the infection. Causes of HPV differ from person to person and it is mostly determined according to the type of infection.
For example, genital HPV is contracted through anal sex, sexual intercourse, or skin to skin interaction in the genital part.
How is HPV diagnosed?
If you are finding lesions or warts in your body, you need to consult a dermatologist. He/she would perform an HPV diagnosis as part of visual inspection. The physician may even recommend extra tests to confirm the HPV presence.
- For women: Some of the tests conducted to determine HPV associated cervical cellular changes or HPV include a DNA test, a PAP smear, and the utilization of vinegar or acetic acid. A DNA test is recommended for women who are 30 years and above. It is recommended along with a PAP smear test. In very rare cases, an HPV doctor may suggest a biopsy for abnormal regions.
- For men: At present, there is no HPV test conducted for men. So, the diagnosis will be on visual inspection.
How is HPV treated?
HPV infection mostly vanishes on its own. There is no specific HPV treatment. The HPV doctor will suggest several tests in a year. This way, they would track the cell changes and the level of infection in the individual. Different treatment options and medicine for HPV would be suggested by the doctor.
If the individual has developed cancer due to HPV, the physician may suggest treatment methods like surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. In some cases, several methods would be combined and utilized. Precancerous cells are eliminated by performing a short procedure at the physician’s office. You can also consult our doctors at carefit for best diagnosis and treatment options.
How can HPV be Prevented?
Some of the best methods for prevention of HPV include:
- Practising safe sex
- Using condoms
- Getting the HPV vaccine
- Avoiding sex when you can see genital warts
Common warts are hard to avoid. If warts exist, ensure to avoid biting fingernails or picking it. It is possible to prevent plantar warts by using sandals and shoes when accessing public areas such as locker rooms and pools. Vaccination remains as an effective HPV cure and prevention measure, especially for children. It is recommended for children between 11 and 12 years of age. The HPV vaccination is offered in two doses that are each given in the gap of six months or one year.