HUMAN PAPILOMA VIRUS
Human papiloma Virus is a DNA tumor virus that causes epithelial proliferation at coetaneous and mucosal surfaces. It is the most common sexually transmitted virus and it is estimated that about 75% of sexually active women and men will acquire a genital HPV infection at some time. High risk strains of this infection are now established as the causative agents responsible for cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of death in women worldwide. There are 510,000 women diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer per year worldwide and 288,000 deaths with approximately 80% of these cases in the developing world. Low-risk strains of HPV are responsible for ano-genital condyloma or genital warts. Although not a life threatening condition, genital warts are a major cause of morbidity as well as psychological distress and embarrassment to many patients.
Some Facts about HPV
- Most sexually active men and women will contract the HPV virus at some time in their lives
- It can result in genital warts and some types of cancer
- HPV can be spread through skin to skin, oral, vaginal and anal sex
- It has no cure but there safe and effective vaccinations
- The risk of HPV infection is proportionately related to the number of sexual partners.
HPV may not cause symptoms at once, but they can appear years later. Some types can lead to warts, while others can cause cancer.
Common symptoms of some types of HPV are warts, especially genital warts.
Genital warts may appear as a small bump, cluster of bumps, or stem-like protrusions. They commonly affect the vulva in women, or possibly the cervix, and the penis or scrotum in men. They may also appear around the anus and in the groin.
They can range in size and appearance and be large, small, flat, or cauliflower shaped, and may be white or flesh tone.
Other warts associated with HPV include common warts, flat and plantar warts.
Common warts – rough, raised bumps most commonly found on the hands, fingers, and elbows.
Flat warts – generally affect children, adolescents, and young adults; they appear as flat-topped, slightly raised lesions that are darker than normal skin color and are most commonly found on the face, neck, or areas that have been scratched
Plantar warts – described as hard, grainy growths on the feet; they most commonly appear on the heels or balls of the feet.
Cancer – Other types of HPV can increase the risk of developing cancer. These cancers include cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus, or the base of the tongue and tonsils. It may take years or decades for cancer to develop.
HPV is a virus that is passed skin-to-skin through sexual intercourse or other forms of skin-to-skin contact of the genitals.
HPV can infect anyone who is sexually active; many times, infected individuals are asymptomatic, meaning they display no symptoms of the virus.
HPV can be transmitted to the infant during birth; this can cause a genital or respiratory system infection.
The following factors increase the risk of contracting the HPV virus;
- Having a higher number of intimate partners
- Having sex with someone who has had several intimate partners
- Having a weakened immune system as a result of HIV infection or after having an organ transplant.
- Having areas of damaged skin.
- Having personal contact with warts or surfaces where HPV exposure has occurred
If warts or lesions are visible, a doctor can generally make a diagnosis of HPV during a visual inspection. However, additional tests may be needed to confirm the presence of HPV.
Different types of HPV have different symptoms. HPV viruses can lead to genital warts and cancer. There is no treatment for the virus, but the symptoms can be treated.
When should I get tested for HPV?
Tests to evaluate for HPV or HPV-related cervical cellular changes include a Pap smear, a DNA test, and the use of acetic acid (vinegar).
A Pap smear is a test that collects cells from the surface of the cervix or the vagina and will reveal any cellular abnormalities that may lead to cancer.
The use of a DNA test will evaluate for the high-risk types of HPV and is recommended for women 30 and older in conjunction with a Pap smear.
Currently, there is no test available for men to check for HPV; diagnosis is made primarily on visual inspection. In some situations, if men or women have a history of receptive anal sex, it is advisable to speak with a doctor regarding the possibility of undergoing an anal Pap smear.
How to reduce the rate of contracting HPV:
- Having the HPV vaccine
- Practicing safe sex
- Practicing abstinence or being in a monogamous sexual relationship
- Early sexual intercourse should be avoided
- It is hard to prevent common warts. If a wart is present, people should avoid picking it or biting finger nails. For plantar warts, it is recommended that shoes or sandals be worn in public areas such as pools and locker rooms.
- It should be noted that the use of condoms can decrease the risk of transmission of HPV, but it should be noted that women having sexual contact with men who use condoms are still at risk of acquiring an infection as condoms are not 100% protective.
It is recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to take the vaccine at the age of 11 to 12 years, to reduce the risk of cervical and other cancers developing in future.
The vaccine is given in two doses, 6 to 12 months apart. The first vaccine is a prophylactic quadrivalent against HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18 made from noninfectious virus like particles and it’s given as series of 3 injections over a 6-month period (0, 2, and 6).
Currently, there are three HPV vaccine injections which include: Gardasil, Cervarix, and Gardasil 9.Consult your doctor for proper vaccination.