What You Need to Know About HPV
HPV or human papillomavirus is a sexually transmissible infection that can affect both men and women. There are hundreds of types of HPV, but about 40 of them manifest in the genital area and are spread through sexual contact. Other types of HPV can lead to warts on the hands and feet.
In this article, you’ll learn about the common causes of HPV, the symptoms, and ways the infection can be treated.
Leading Cause of HPV
HPV is usually transmitted via skin-to-skin contact. Most individuals get the infection during sexual activity, including anal, oral and vaginal sex. Because it primarily involves contact of the skin, the transmission can occur without intercourse. You can even get it if the skin around your private parts touches someone else’s throat, mouth or genitals.
Some varieties of HPV can lead to the growth of skin-colored warts around the private region, which can appear in single, flat, cauliflower-like or raised clusters. Even if someone has them, they won’t necessarily find out because warts do a great job at disguising themselves in the surrounding skin.
Symptoms of HPV
Many people with human papillomavirus don’t experience any symptoms. The CDC reports that most HPV infections clear up on their own, and 90 percent of the infections go away within 2 years of the initial infection. However, because HPV can still be present in an individual’s body during those years, that individual may unknowingly infect other people.
When the infection doesn’t clear up by itself, it can be a sign of a serious health issue like cancer in the cervix, vagina, penis, anus, or throat. HPVs that result in warts differ from the ones that result in cancer. So, having warts on your skin doesn’t mean you’ll suffer from a cancerous disease down the road. HPVs that lead to cancer don’t display symptoms until the cancer grows in size and intensity.
In rare cases, women who have human papillomavirus can transmit the infection to their child during birth. If this happens, the newborn may develop an ailment referred to as recurrent respiratory papillomatosis. This is where HPV-caused warts appear inside the child’s airways or throat.
How Is HPV Detected?
HPV is often detected through Pap tests. Pap tests or (Pap smears) are critical examinations that help discover abnormal growth of cells in the cervix, a by-product of human papillomavirus. Pap tests look for changes in cells developed via HPV, but they don’t directly detect the virus.
A dedicated HPV test can also be conducted to discover high-risk types of HPVs, but they’re only recommended in certain scenarios. For example, a physician can recommend that females between 30 and 50 years of age undergo an HPV test as a follow-up to the Pap test when the latter’s results aren’t clear. Your nurse or doctor will inform you what tests you may require and how often you should take them. If the result of the test is positive, there’s no reason to panic. It’s because positive results indicate the presence of HPV, which is harmless if it’s detected and treated early. For most people, the infection will disappear without causing any issues.
What Is the Recommended Treatment for HPV?
As most cases of this infection disappear on their own, there’s no best treatment for HPV. Instead, your healthcare provider will ask you to pay him or her a visit repeatedly to see if the ailment persists and if there are any cell modifications that need further inspection. Prescription medications can be used to treat genital warts, or liquid nitrogen can be used to freeze them out. The other option is to use an electrical current to burn warts.
With that said, eliminating warts doesn’t treat the root cause of the ailment, and warts may reappear down the road. In contrast, HPV-related cancer cells can be treated via Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP) or Colposcopy. Sometimes, your physician may recommend that you undergo multiple therapies in order to eliminate cancerous cells. Right now, no natural treatment (involving the use of supplements) exists for curing HPV.
Regular screening for cervical cancer and HPV is critical for monitoring, determining, and addressing health issues that may result from this infection.
How to Prevent HPV
The best way to ensure you don’t experience HPV is to practice safe sex. However, many people will have unprotected sex in some phase of their lives. As a result, additional steps are required to minimize the chances of spreading or getting HPV.
The first of these steps involves the HPV vaccine. The Gardasil 9 vaccine is available for the cancers and warts caused by the HPV infection. It can protect against 9 different types of HPV infections associated with either warts or cancer. Also, research shows that the overall vaccine process is extremely safe. The only side effects you might experience are temporary redness and pain in the place you receive the shot.
Secondly, people should consider using dental dams (for oral sex) and condoms when involved in sexual activity. Though these aren’t as effective as they are against known sexually transmitted diseases like HIV, safer sex can thwart your odds of contracting an HPV infection.
For vaccines, everyone between 9 and 45 years of age can get the shot to protect against varying types of HPVs (though it hasn’t been shown to produce much benefit beyond the age of 26). It is recommended that parents get their children the HPV vaccine at the age of 12 or 13, so they’re protected before the years they engage in sexual activity.
As you can see, HPV is usually harmless, and with the right approach to identification, detection and prevention, you can keep it at bay for good. Just note that if someone already has an HPV, the vaccine made for this ailment won’t fix the problem. However, getting the vaccine is still vital as it can prevent you from contracting other kinds of HPV.