Human Papilloma virus, or HPV, is a sexually transmitted infection. You might have heard of HPV before, and contracting HPV is more common than you think. In fact, it is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the world. HPV is known to be harmless to most people, but in some cases, it can cause genital warts and even certain types of cancer. However, not all kinds of HPV cause cancer.
Human Papilloma virus, as the name suggests, is a virus it has more than 100 types. Some of these types can affect your genital areas, which include the vagina, cervix, vagina, penis, scrotum, anus, and rectum. It can also affect your mouth and throat as well. Certain types of HPV can cause cancer in these areas as well.
How will you get HPV?
HPV transmits from one another through skin-to-skin contact, and an infection occurs if it enters the body through a small cut in the skin. Genital HPV, on the other hand, is contracted through sexual intercourse. It does not have to be penetrative sex, as genital HPV can be transmitted by skin to skin to contact in the genitalia, which also includes oral sex.
HPV, is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, and many people are most likely to have it in their lifetime. It is very common for someone to be unaware of the contraction of the virus, even if they have it already. HPV, in most cases, is harmless and goes away on its own.
Symptoms of HPV infection
HPV infections cause warts. Warts are small lumps in the skin that are usually painless. These warts are different from each other based on the type of HPV involved. In most people, the immune system beats HPV before it causes warts.
- Common warts – Common warts usually appear on the skin of hands and feet. These warts are hard and bumpy.
- Genital warts – These warts appear in the genital regions, such as the vulva, vagina, and cervix, in women. For men, it is the penis and the scrotum. They also appear in the anus as well. These warts are usually painless; however, they can cause mild bleeding and slight discomfort from time to time.
- Flat warts – As the name suggests, these warts are flat and appear on the chin area or the legs.
- Plantar warts – These warts appear on the heel of the foot. They are hard, meaning they can cause slight pain or discomfort.
Some types of HPV can also cause cancers. The cancers occur as certain types of the virus may cause abnormal changes in the cells, which will eventually lead to cancer. The types of cancers that may develop due to HPV are,
- Anal cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Penile cancer
- Vaginal cancer
- Vulvar cancer
- Oropharyngeal cancer
How does HPV go away?
HPV usually goes away on its own. This may take up to years of time to disappear. One can go on in their life without ever knowing they have contracted HPV. However, if it does not go away on its own, it can cause the health problems mentioned above.
How to avoid HPV infection?
There are a couple of ways you can avoid getting contracted HPV. One method is prevention, and the other is the HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine may not be as effective when you have already contracted the virus.
- To avoid the development of genital warts related to HPV, it is better if you can wear condoms during sex and reduce the number of sex partners.
- Common wart infections are hard to avoid, as they happen through skin-to-skin contact. You can prevent the spread of warts by not picking on them.
- To avoid plantar warts, it is always advised to wear shoes or sandals when walking on public grounds.
The HPV vaccine is available to prevent cervical cancer and genital warts caused by HPV. However, this vaccine may not be effective if the individual has already contracted the virus.
How to test for HPV?
You cannot just find out whether you have HPV or not by doing bloodwork. It is not possible to check a person’s HPV status. However, you can do a pap test to see any abnormalities. If your doctor detects something unusual, he or she may suggest you do an HPV test that only detects the type of HPV that causes cancer. This test, however, is reconnected to women over 30 years of age. There are no ways to detect HPV in men; however, a contracted man can pass it on to his sexual partner.
How does HPV affect pregnancy?
If a pregnant mother has an HPV infection that indicates genital warts, there is a chance of the HPV infection being contracted by the baby.
Risk factors for HPV infection
There are a few risk factors when it comes to contracting an HPV infection. Those are,
- Your age – common warts appear mostly in children, while genital warts affect adults.
- The number of your sexual partners – Having more sexual partners means having a high probability of getting an HPV infection if you engage in sexual activity with a partner who has had many sexual partners may also increase the risk of getting HPV.
- Weak immune system – A person who has a weak immune system will have a higher chance of getting an HPV infection.
- Skin-to-skin contact – If you touch another person’s warts or be unprotected on public grounds, you will have a higher chance of contracting HPV as well.
Is there treatment for HPV?
Simply speaking, there are no treatments available for the virus. However, you can treat warts with medicine. Warts can go away on their own too, or they can spread more in some cause if it is not treated. You can also treat HPV-related cancers that are detected early.
HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection worldwide. While it is not easy to avoid getting an HPV infection in one’s lifetime, it is also not a reason to be ashamed of it or insecure about it.