The human papillomavirus is a virus from the Papillomaviridae family. The strains of HPV are categorized into high-risk and low-risk types. The transmission of these strains occurs via skin-to-skin or sexual contact. Some of these strains cause warts on the feet and hands, while others may infect the genital region including the vulva, vagina, cervix, rectum, anus, penis, or scrotum. The virus is acquired when a person has sexual intercourse with a person infected with HPV. Thus, having vaginal/anal intercourse or oral sex with an infected person makes a person susceptible. The development of genital warts is one of the characteristic symptoms of this infection. High risk HPV can induce cellular changes that may lead to the development of cervical, anal, vulvar, vaginal, penile, or oropharyngeal cancer.
The risk increases manifold in case of people who have multiple sexual partners or those who indulge in unprotected sex. Men who are gay or bisexual are more susceptible.
The human papillomavirus can be transmitted from an infected to an uninfected person during vaginal or anal sex. The virus is highly active, and can enter the skin through microscopic abrasions that develop in the genital area during sexual intercourse. Men with a compromised immune system are more likely to develop this infection. It may develop within weeks or months after sexual contact with an infected person. At times, this infection may not exhibit any symptoms, which is why men and women who are infected, may unknowingly pass it on to their partners. Some strains of HPV can cause genital warts, while some cause cancer of the penis, anus, or oropharynx. Following are some common symptoms that are observed in infected men:
Signs of Genital Warts
- Abnormal growth on the penis, testicles, groin, thighs, or anus
- Painless, cauliflower-shaped, raised or flat warts
Signs of Anal Cancer
- Anal bleeding, pain, discomfort, itching, or discharge
- Swelling of the lymph nodes in the anal or groin area
- Changes in bowel habits or the shape of the stool
Signs of Penile Cancer
- Color changes, skin thickening, or a buildup of tissue on the penis
- Abnormal growth on the penis
Diagnosis and Treatment
There is no general test for HPV detection in men. However, if a person has genital warts, the doctors may use a vinegar solution to help find flat warts. Normally, the infection usually goes away without causing any health problems. While there aren't treatments for the infection itself, there are treatments for the genital warts and other related diseases that can occur as a result of the infection. Genital warts can be cured with medicine, surgery, laser treatment, or cryotherapy (use of liquid nitrogen to freeze the wart). The treatment of penile and anal cancers involves advanced surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. A combination of these treatment options may be suggested, depending upon the severity of the disease.
The new human papillomavirus vaccines called Gardasil and Cervarix, that have been developed to protect against most cervical cancers and genital warts, have only been licensed to be used for women in between ages 9-26 years. Studies are being conducted in order to determine whether the vaccines are also safe to use in case of men, and if they can be used to protect them against various health problems associated with HPV.
Most of the cases may be resolved within a few months or a couple of years. Though this virus can infect areas that are not covered by a condom, having protected sex with only one person at a time can lower the risk for HPV in men.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.