HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus. This write-up provides information on the transmission of the virus and the symptoms caused by this infection.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) refers to a group of viruses that affect different parts of the skin. Out of the several strains, around 30 are known to cause genital warts. Skin warts and genital warts are generally caused by viruses that are classified as low risk, but there are certain strains which can lead to serious medical conditions such as cervical cancer, cervical and vaginal dysplasia in women, and penile cancer or anal cancer in men.
This virus is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact. It can enter one’s body due to contact with an infected person. People with a compromised immune system are at a greater risk of contracting this infection. The development of common warts or flat warts on various parts of the body is one of the most common symptoms of low-risk HPV. While low risk HPV 6 and 11, or high risk HPV 16 and 18 could cause oral and upper respiratory lesions, HPV types 6 and 11 are responsible for causing genital warts. Genital HPV infection is contracted when one has sexual intercourse with a person infected with this virus. Having vaginal/anal intercourse or oral sex with an infected person, having multiple sexual partners or unprotected sex puts one at an increased risk of contracting this infection.
➞ Oral and upper respiratory lesions are characterized by warts and lesions on the tongue, tonsils, soft palate, larynx, and the nose.
➞ Children who are exposed to the virus could develop flat warts. These are slightly raised lesions that are slightly darker than the color of the skin. These flat-topped warts are likely to appear on the face, neck, hands, wrists, elbows, or knees.
➞ This infection could also cause common warts that appear as rough, raised bumps. These usually develop on the hands, fingers, or around fingernails. At times, these bumps might be painful.
➞ Plantar warts are hard growths that appear on the soles of the feet. These could be accompanied by pain and itching.
➞ Genital HPV is characterized by flat lesions or cauliflower-shaped warts along with itching, bleeding, and discharge. In case of women, this virus can cause warts in the vagina, vulva or cervix, whereas in men, these warts appear on the tip of penis, scrotum, groin and the inner thigh.
These warts are generally caused by viruses that are classified as low risk. These are different from the strains that cause cervical cancer in women or penile cancer in men. These viruses could also cause recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, or cervical/vaginal dysplasia in women. The viruses that are classified as high risk could also cause anal cancer and penile cancer in men.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The infections that may be caused by this virus in women can be detected with the help of a pap smear test. Pap smear test is used to determine if a woman is affected by cervix cancer. If abnormalities are detected in the Pap smear, another test is conducted to ascertain the presence and type of human papillomavirus. If the HPV test is positive, a colposcopy test is conducted for examining the cervix, vagina, and vulva. In case of men, doctors mainly rely on the examination of warts. Topical application of a cream called Aldara is used for treating men diagnosed with this infection. Creams or acid medicines might also be prescribed for treating women diagnosed with such infections. If these medicines don’t help in removing the warts, surgery is recommended. Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP), cryosurgery, electrocautery, or laser treatments are generally recommended for the removal of small warts.
Vaccines called Gardasil and Cervarix are used as a preventive step for protecting women against 4 types of HPV. Gardasil can be administered for those in the age group of 11 to 26. Cervarix is another vaccine that prevents one from getting infected by HPV type 16 and 18. Since this is a sexually transmitted disease, sexually active people are at an increased risk of contracting this infection. The best way to prevent the transmission of viruses that are classified as high risk HPV is by taking certain precautionary measures. Practicing safe sex and avoiding multiple partners will surely lower the risk.
The HPV infection puts men and women at an increased risk of developing serious medical conditions, which is why it is extremely essential to take preventive measures. If you observe the aforementioned symptoms, seek medical help.
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.