How does HPV spread?
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common viral infection that is transmitted through sexual activity.
Papillomaviruses are viruses that infect only humans. It is mainly a skin-borne disease. People can get an HPV infection by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone infected with the virus. People with HPV may not exhibit any symptoms for years after the initial infection.
What causes an HPV infection?
Some of the risk factors for human papillomavirus infection include:
- Unsafe sex
- Tobacco use
- Ultraviolet radiation
- Folate deficiency
- Immune suppression
- Multiple sexual partners
- Prolonged oral contraceptives use
- High-risk ethnic backgrounds, such as African Americans
- Having other infections, such as HIV
- Early and multiple pregnancies
Does HPV cause health problems?
HPV infections often resolve without treatment and do not cause any health problems. However, persisting infection can cause:
- Warts: Small or large, raised or flat, cauliflower-shaped lesions, observed in the genital area (genital warts), anal area, mouth and feet.
- Cancer in the larynx and vocal cords.
- Warts in the feet.
- Cervical cancer: Virtually all cases of cervical cancer are attributable to HPV infection. It may take 15 to 20 years for cervical cancer to develop in otherwise healthy women.
How is HPV diagnosed?
Women older than 30 years should have regular screenings. They may undergo the following tests to diagnose HPV:
- Cervical Pap test: This test uses a sample of cells from the cervix to identify cervical cancer.
- HPV DNA typing: This test uses a sample of cells from the cervix to determine if it contains genetic material causing cancer.
- Acetic acid test: This test helps in diagnosing genital warts.
- Tissue biopsy: This test confirms an HPV infection.
How is HPV treated?
Therapies to treat HPV infection include:
Drug therapy: Medicines are applied topically.
- Chemotherapy drugs: Podofilox, podophyllin
- Immune response modifier: Imiquimod and interferon alfa
Surgical therapy: When the patients have multiple warts over a large area, surgery is considered.
- Cryosurgery: Cold nitrogen that destroys warts.
- Electrosurgery: High-frequency electric currents that destroy warts or tumors
- Surgical excision of warts with a scalpel and scissors.
- Carbon dioxide laser ablation: Carbon dioxide laser that destroys warts or tumors.
- Cavitron Ultrasonic Surgical Aspiration: Ultrasonic waves excise the tumors or warts.
- Mohs surgery: A surgical procedure that removes cancerous tissue.
Children in the age group of nine to 14 receive an HPV vaccine for prevention.
- Avoid skin-to-skin contact and sexual contact with your partner after warts appear.
- Use safe sex by using latex condoms. Condoms, however, do not guarantee complete protection from HPV.
- Only have sex with someone who only has sex with you (monogamy).
- Eat foods that are rich in folic acid and vitamin B12.
Is HPV dangerous?
HPV infections often resolve without treatment and do not cause any health problems. A persistent HPV infection may lead to warts, cancer of the mouth and throat, and cervical cancer. Virtually all cases of cervical cancer are attributable to HPV infection.
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