HPV is the abbreviated form of Human Papillomavirus. People infected by this virus may or may not show any symptoms of infection. However, among those who show symptoms, a HPV infection may physically manifest in the form of warts, cervical cancer, cancers in other urogenital regions and organs. The human papillomavirus attacks and infects certain cells, epithelial cells to be specific, of the skin and mucous membranes and can, thus, be transmitted from an infected mother to her newborn child, through sexual contact with an infected person or by sharing such objects with an infected person which may have, possibly, been contaminated.
You see, HPV is highly contagious! So, what is high risk HPV? Well, till date, well over 100 different types of human papillomavirus have been identified and each type has been assigned a distinct number. Among these, there are about 12 types that are mostly sexually transmitted, and are considered high risk. These 12 high risk HPV types can lead to anything from skin and genital warts to the abnormal growth or development of certain, non cancerous, cells along the cervical and other urogenital surfaces. Now, let's take a quick look at high risk HPV treatment options and management procedures.
High Risk HPV Treatment and Management
Now, most cases of high risk HPV, like most viral infections, clear out on their own. Once the infectious agent - the human papillomavirus in this case - incubates, the symptoms remain for a specific duration and then, overcome by the body's immune defenses, they disappear as the virus succumbs to the immune system's biological bombarding. In fact, in most cases where a HPV infection is diagnosed, close monitoring is generally the first action that is prescribed rather than a full-fledged medication and treatment regime. Although a comprehensive cure for HPV doesn't exist, as of now, and the treatment is mostly symptomatic, clinical studies and observational statistics have indicated towards a decreasing trend and lower likelihood of infection in individuals who get vaccinated against HPV.
In case a woman tests positive for high risk HPV, cervical swabs are collected and pap tests are conducted in order to keep a close watch on any abnormality that might possibly lead to cervical cancer or cancers of other urogenital organs. Colposcopy may also be recommended to monitor any abnormal cellular change along the tissues lining the vulva and the vagina. In case any abnormal cellular change or development is detected during these tests (which are conducted frequently to keep a close tab on such developments), the abnormal cells can either be frozen or removed.
The technique that is used to freeze and, therefore, stunt the growth of abnormal cells is known as Cryotherapy. Abnormal cells can be removed by either conducting a cone biopsy or via LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure) method which uses electric currents to remove the target cells. The latter method is almost painless. These same treatment methods are applicable to male individuals who test positive for high risk HPV and show symptoms such as genital warts or abnormal cellular developments in the urogenital areas. However, a standardized test procedure for collecting samples from the male urogenital areas does not exist as of now.
In case of HPV induced genital warts, medicated and antiviral creams prescribed by the doctor usually takes care of the physical discomfort. The 12 HPV types that are included under the purview of the term high risk are HPV types 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, and 59. All these types are characterized by a common pathogenic feature - they all lead to abnormal cellular development and growth which may or may not develop into cancerous tissues. As is with all other viral infections, prevention is better than treatment, as a cure, per se, doesn't exist. Vaccination does lower one's chances of getting infected with HPV but it doesn't completely rule out the possibilities of a HPV infection. The only way to prevent a HPV infection is to avoid high risk HPV transmission, which, as mentioned before, can take place via sexual contact with an infected person or sharing contaminated objects. Stay clear, stay safe.