What is the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), and what symptoms does it produce that can help in its diagnosis? We also discover its main causes and the available medical treatments.
Sexually transmitted infections are not something new, although certainly as a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in recent decades, these topics are no longer taboo. Today we all seek information on how to protect ourselves in sexual relations to avoid the spread of STDs, Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
In this opportunity we are going to deal with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), an STD that has begun to have more diffusion lately, but the one about which many people are still not informed in depth.
In order to learn more about the subject, we will review everything you need to know about the human papillomavirus: its causes, its consequences, ways to prevent it and its treatment.
What is the Human Papilloma Virus?
The Human Papilloma Virus is a sexually transmitted disease (STD), which stands out precisely for being one of the most common and frequent sexual diseases. There are more than 100 different varieties of this virus, and depending on the virus that causes the infection, it will produce different symptoms.
For example, some types will manifest with the appearance of warts, especially on the soles of the feet, hands and in the genital area. Moreover, genital infections by the human papillomavirus are extremely common, which is why many experts consider that almost all sexually active men and women contract it at some point in their lives.
In fact, as we will learn in the following sections, since in most cases it does not actually produce symptoms; most people have already been infected with the virus and have it, but do not know it.
The Human Papillomavirus: main causes
The Human Papilloma Virus is acquired by direct contact with the skin of another infected person. The areas where the infection is usually located are the genitals and nearby areas. Therefore, if your skin is in contact with one of the affected areas, there is a high probability that contagion will occur.
Infection occurs mainly through skin-to-skin contact, especially during vaginal, oral, or anal sex. For this reason, the most effective prevention is the use of a condom every time vaginal or anal intercourse is had, since although they are not as effective as with HIV or chlamydia, they do tend to greatly reduce the risk of infection.
What symptoms does HPV produce?
Generally, we must bear in mind that human papillomavirus infection tends not to present symptoms, unless we are dealing with a type of HPV that causes the appearance of genital warts.
It is in these cases that HPV actually produces genital warts. These are usually located in the genitals and nearby areas (thighs, anus or groin), it can also arise in the mouth, tongue, throat or palate if the infection occurred during oral sex. In case of noticing the appearance of warts in these areas, we should examine ourselves since it can be a symptom of HPV.
These warts can appear several weeks or months after sexual contact with a person who has HPV. On the other hand, it is also possible that they may appear years after exposure, but in reality they are isolated cases.
The warts themselves tend to look like groups of bumps, which are located mostly in the genital area, and can be small or large, cauliflower-shaped, or flat or prominent.
However, as we indicated previously, in a high proportion of cases, people infected with the virus do not present these symptoms or any other, that is, it is not possible to visibly notice the existence of the virus. Unfortunately, this does not prevent contagion, since the virus can be present asymptomatically.
Moreover, the immune system tends to attack the virus at the time of infection, being able to eliminate it for around 2 years, so that no symptoms appear and the person, therefore, is unaware that he or she has truly suffered from the infection.
On the other hand, it should be noted that some varieties of HPV do not occur in the genital area but on the soles of the feet and hands and are not transmitted sexually.
High-risk human papillomaviruses and cervical cancer
There are more than 150 varieties of human papillomavirus, and among them are the so-called “high risk” ones. In those cases, the presence of the virus leads to the alteration of the cells, an example of this is precancerous changes in the cervix that can lead to cervical cancer.
In men, high-risk HPV can lead to penile cancer. There are also cases of or pharyngeal (throat) and anal cancer caused by human papilloma infection.
Of course, as many experts say, genital warts rarely turn into cancer.
How HPV can be treated?
If you have genital warts or suspect it, it is important to see a doctor immediately. After the diagnosis is made, current or previous sexual partners should be contacted so that they can also be tested and take measures to avoid transmission to other people.
Regarding the medical treatment of warts caused by HPV, different drugs are applied topically, such as podophyllin 0.5% or Imiquimod 5%, which acts by activating the different cells of the system immune system, which ultimately attack and destroy the virus, or 80-90% trichloroacetic acid.
Some specialists also opt for surgical removal of warts through electrocoagulation or laser, or through the use of cry therapy with liquid nitrogen.