The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of viruses that cause genital warts and certain types of cancer in people. There are nearly 100 types of HPV known and identified. As nearly 30 types of HPV spread through sexual contact, it is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STD / STI) in the world. The viral infection can affect both men as well as women. Milder types of virus cause genital warts; while, certain strains can also be responsible for cervical cancer, miscarriage, infertility, cervical dysplasia and prostate diseases.
HPV infection is contagious. If a healthy person has a sexual intercourse with a partner with genital warts, he contracts the infection. However, only the virus that causes STD is highly contagious, and not the other types. It should be noted that HPV is contagious, even when no symptoms like warts are observed. There are also chances of a woman contracting HPV infection during childbirth. At the same time, in rare cases, a pregnant woman may even pass the infection to her child. If the immune system of the person is strong, the virus gets suppressed after proper treatment. Let us know about the infection in detail.
Sexually transmitted infections or diseases, as the name suggests, are transmitted from an infected person to the other during a sexual intercourse. However, a penetrative intercourse is not always required for HPV to pass from one person to the other. Direct contact between genitals, oral sex, etc. can also spread the infection. Other types of HPV, that do not cause warts, are not transmitted through sexual intercourse. On the other hand, using personal items like towels and clothes of the person suffering from this disease can also spread the disease.
Warts or papillomas on the skin is the most common symptom of diseases caused by HPV. However, the location of the warts helps in diagnosing whether the disease caused by HPV is sexually transmitted or not. HPV that cause genital warts are transmitted sexually, whereas warts developed on hands and feet are not. It may also be possible that a person may not experience any signs and symptoms. Similarly, in case of cervical cancer, no early signs are observed. In that case, any abnormal changes in the genital region should be bought to the notice of the doctor immediately.
Detecting the infection is very difficult. Sometimes, it is observed that when a person undergoes a test for HPV virus, the result may be negative initially; but, may later turn positive. These people are known as carriers of the virus. The time duration required for the warts to appear may range from a few weeks to more than a couple of months. Tests like pap smear and pelvic examination can help in diagnosing the infection.
Genital warts, when identified, can be treated using different treatment methods. Medication and creams help treat warts by burning them off or by destroying the tissues. Secondly, electrocautery, surgery or laser treatments can also be used. The treatment varies according to the type of virus. In some cases, the virus may go away on its own; whereas, in other cases they may increase in number as time passes. Cervical dysplasia can be treated with laser treatment and cone biopsy. Cancer caused due to HPV can be treated using traditional treatment methods of cancer like surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
It should be noted that there is no permanent cure for this infection. However, it is wise to go for the required treatment. If the condition is left untreated, the virus can increase in number. Boosting your immunity is one of the prominent and helpful ways of treating and preventing HPV infection.
As a concluding note, note that HPV infection can be prevented by having protected sexual intercourse using contraceptives like condoms. There is also a vaccine available for some of the types of HPV. Lastly, sexually active people should undertake regular tests to detect STD, and avoid having intercourse with multiple partners.
Disclaimer: This write-up is intended only to provide information. You need to consult the doctor for proper advice and treatment for the same.