HomeLiving HealthyHealth TipsBreaking the Stigma around HPV: All You Need to Know

Breaking the Stigma around HPV: All You Need to Know

HPV infection is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus and is a common infection that affects millions of people around the world each year. The infection is usually passed from one person to the other through skin-to-skin contact. There are about 100 or more varieties of this virus, and nearly 40 of them are said to be transmitted through sexual contact.

HPV (Human papillomavirus) is said to be the most common Sexually Transmitted Infection or Disease, and many sexually active individuals do get exposed to this virus sometime during their lives.

HPV infection

There is significant fear and stigma associated with developing the HPV infection. The main reason for this is that most people believe an HPV infection leads to cancer. However, there is more to this that we need to understand.

In some people, human papillomavirus infection causes the development of warts, but in others, it can cause cancer. But, this doesn’t mean that all HPV infections lead to cancer. The human papillomavirus infection results in cancers of uterus, vagina, penis, vagina, vulva, and even oropharyngeal cancer. Though there is no treatment for this viral infection, it can now be prevented by the HPV vaccine.

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Signs and symptoms HPV (human papillomavirus)

Most people are usually asymptomatic when infected by the virus, and their body successfully hold off  the infection over a period of a few months to years. But, such individuals may still be harbouring the virus and end up transmitting it to another person.

Your body usually fights the HPV before it results in the formation of warts– the first sign of the disease, and some commonly observed warts caused by the virus include:

  • Genital warts: In women, these warts appear on the vulva, near the anus, around the vagina or the cervix. In men, these warts can appear on the penis, scrotum, or the anus.
  • Common skin warts: These skin warts can occur anywhere on the body. These include flat warts (common in children), and plantar warts on the heels and feet.
  • Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis: The HPV infection can also cause you to develop warts in the throat, which results in a condition called recurrent respiratory papillomatosis.

Causes and Risk Factors of HPV

As you now know, the HPV infection is caused by the Human Papillomavirus that gets transmitted through skin-to-skin and sexual contact. Due to this reason, many people develop the infection even without having intercourse.

If you have a cut or abrasion on the skin, there are higher chances that you will contract the disease if you come in close skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. Many people develop oral lesions due to papillomavirus, which occurs when participating in oral sex.

As we mentioned earlier, HPV infection is a common condition, and here are some factors that increase your risk of developing the disease:

  • A high number of sexual partners
  • Having a partner who has HPV
  • Weak immune system (Individuals with HIV/AIDS or taking drugs that suppress their immune system)
  • Damaged skin that is abraded or broken
  • Coming in close contact with someone who has HPV in shared places like swimming pools or public showers

Diagnosis of HPV

Testing for HPV is different in women and men.

Women

As per the updated guidelines, women have their first Pap smear or Pap test, at age 21, regardless of onset of sexual activity. Regular Pap smear help identify abnormal cells in women. Abnormal cells can signal potential cervical cancer or any other HPV-related disorders.

Women aged 21 to 29 must have a Pap test every three years. And from 30 to 65 years of age, women must undergo one of the following:

  • Receive Pap test every three years
  • Undergo HPV test every five years. This will screen for high-risk types of HPV (hrHPV)

Cervical changes that causes cancer usually take many years to develop, and HPV infections generally go away on their own without causing cancer.

Men

It is important to note that HPV DNA test is available only for diagnosing HPV in women. Currently, there is no FDA-approved test available for diagnosing HPV in men.

Complications Caused by HPV

If untreated or unattended to, the virus causes lesions in the oral cavity such as on the tongue, cheek, soft palate, and these may sometimes extend into the nose or your larynx (voice box).

The most significant complication of the HPV infection is that it results in cervical cancer. Some variants of the Human Papilloma Virus also cause cancers of genitals, oral cavity, and even respiratory systems.

However, you should be clear that having HPV or warts caused by it does not necessarily mean you will develop cancer.

Treatment of HPV

Since most cases of HPV infection are asymptomatic, most people require no treatment. However, if you experience any symptoms, you might need to visit your doctor.

Genital warts are commonly treated using medications prescribed by a doctor, or using liquid nitrogen or burning warts. However, this doesn’t eliminate the virus from your body.

If routine screening can detect HPV-related cervical cancer, the necessary treatment can be taken. For this reason, routine cervical and uterine screening in women of reproductive age is done to identify HPV-related cancers in early stages.

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Precautions of HPV 

Preventing HPV is very easy. It is as easy as wearing a condom during the sexual act and practicing safe sex. There is also an HPV vaccine that protects individuals from warts and cancer caused by the virus. The vaccine Gardasil 9 is an HPV vaccine that is said to protect you from 9 types of warts and cancer-causing variants of HPV.

There are some schedules for taking this vaccine, and women of different ages are advised to take the HPV vaccine as per their age. As per the CDC recommendations, the HPV vaccine should be administered for girls and boys ages 11 or 12. Two doses of HPV vaccine are administered at least six months apart. Men and women ages 15 to 26 can also get vaccinated on a three-dose schedule.

FAQs:

  1. Can you get rid of HPV once you have it?

Once you contract the HPV, you cannot completely eliminate the virus from your body. However, you can get rid of the clinical symptoms caused by the virus. Warts are successfully treated by many medical and surgical methods, while cancer caused due to the HPV is treated as per the  protocol for cancer treatment .

  1. What does it mean if you test positive for HPV?

If you test positive for HPV, it means the human papillomavirus is inside your body, and you have an increased risk of developing cervical cancer. However, this in no way means that you have cancer right now, but you just have a higher risk of developing it in the future.

Request an appointment at Apollo Hospitals

Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment

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