HPV is one of the sexually transmitted infections, which is contracted through unsafe sexual practices. It affects the epithelial cells, however, does not develop into a dangerous condition. This disorder can be healed with the use of proper medication.
HPV, i.e., Human Papillomavirus, is a sexually transmitted viral infection. It is a group of over 100 viruses and some of its strains are responsible for various types of cancer, cervical cancer being one of them. Around 30 types of this virus spread through genital contact. The disease spreads during instances of vaginal, oral, or anal sex with an HPV infected person.
The symptoms show quite late after the onset of the infection in the form of swellings around the genital area or the anus, and in women, the warts can grow even in the cervix. Unfortunately, there is no ultimate cure for HPV till date. The disease has been classified into two types based on the risk factor:
- Low Risk HPV
- High Risk HPV
Types of Low Risk HPV
There are around 12 types of this HPV identified till date. The symptoms observed are warts on the genital areas. They are also responsible for some abnormal cell changes in the cervix in women. However, this type does not cause cervical cancer. Every type is identified by a unique number. The types are known by the numbers 6, 11, 40, 42, 43, 44, 53, 54, 61, 72, 73, and 81. Of these, type 6 and type 11 are the most common infections diagnosed. Infections caused by these strains lead to lesions on tongue, tonsils, larynx, or nose, apart from the genital warts.
The abnormalities caused by this infection, in women, can be diagnosed by the Pap smear test. This procedure involves extracting a sample of cervical cells of a woman during pelvic examination. The cells are then put in a solution and sent for further tests and examination. This test is the best way to find out, if there are any hidden precancerous conditions, that may lead to development of cancerous cells. Pap smear test is recommended for all women above the age of 20 and this routine should be followed at least once in three years. This is also the best way to identify any anomalies in the cervical cells, if there is no symptom of genital warts.
Symptoms in men are not much traceable, except for non-malignant growth on the penis or on the scrotum. These warts usually erupt in clusters and may cause a lot of discomfort by causing itching or burning sensation. Many times, men get the warts removed or frozen surgically. At times, the symptoms don’t show at all, even if a man is an HPV carrier. Unfortunately, there are not many tests to diagnose this disease in men.
High Risk vs Low Risk HPV
The high risk strains of HPV are any day more dangerous than the low risk types. These strains are primarily responsible for various types of cancers, one of them being cervical cancer. In women, they lead to cancerous growths in genital areas, like, vulva, vagina, and anus. Even cancer in oropharynx is attributed to these high risk strains. In men, this type can lead to penile cancer. The high risk strains include HPV 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59, 68, and 69.
Unlike the low risk types, where there are only intermittent appearances of genital warts, high risk infection is a serious concern, as it leads to producing cancer cells in the body. These types do not cause much harm and in most cases, the warts usually disappear on their own.
HPV vaccination is now available, however, it is only for women. Gardasil is the best recommended vaccine and it is advised that females, in the age group 12-40, get themselves vaccinated with this. Not to mention, engaging in safe sex should be the foremost precaution to be considered to combat these infections. Since, the infections are not immediately identified as low risk or high risk HPV types, it is better to know the health background of your partner in advance. Adolescents, who are most vulnerable to these infections, must be educated about the implications of this disease, which has been proved to be a source of various types of cancer.