HPV: Here is everything you must know about Human Papillomavirus infection

This viral infection can cause penile, cervical and throat which can be life-threatening if not treated early.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of viruses that can cause infections in humans. There are over 150 different types of HPV, and they can infect various parts of the body, including the skin, mucous membranes, and genital areas.

HPV reminds me of reading a novel as a teenager. A character was complaining of having to lie on her back to get genital warts burned from her private part, all because her partner got her infected. Well, this article covers everything you must know about HPV;

Some types of HPV can cause warts, while others can cause cancer. Most HPV infections don't lead to cancer but some types of genital HPV can cause cancer of the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina (cervix).

Other types of cancers, including cancers of the anus, penis, vagina, vulva and back of the throat (oropharyngeal), have been linked to HPV infection. HPV is spread through sexual contact and can be transmitted through vaginal, anal, and oral sex.

What causes HPV and how is it transmitted?

There are several risk factors for contracting HPV you should consider;

  1. Having multiple sexual partners.
  2. Having a weakened or compromised immune system.
  3. Age: The risk of contracting HPV increases with age, especially in people over the age of 30.
  4. Personal history of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  5. Damaged skin: Areas of skin that have been punctured or opened are more prone to develop common warts.
  6. Personal contact: Touching someone's warts or not wearing protection before contacting surfaces that have been exposed to HPV might increase your risk of HPV infection.

What are common symptoms of Human Papillomavirus infection

Most people with HPV do not experience any symptoms and do not know they have the virus. In many cases, the body's immune system is able to clear the infection on its own within a few years. However, some types of HPV can cause visible symptoms, such as warts.

Common types of warts include:

1. Common Warts:

Common warts are small, raised bumps that are often found on the hands and fingers. They may be round or oval-shaped, and they may have a rough or smooth surface.

Common Warts on hands

Common warts are usually skin-coloured or slightly lighter or darker than the surrounding skin. They may also be brown or grey.

2. Plantar Warts:

Plantar warts are warts that appear on the soles of the feet. Plantar warts are also symptoms of the human papillomavirus (HPV).

It is also more common in people who walk barefoot in public places, such as pools, locker rooms, and showers.

Plantar Warts on feet

Plantar warts can be painful, especially when pressure is applied to them, such as when walking or standing. They may cause discomfort or embarrassment, and in some cases, they can interfere with normal activities.

3. Flat warts:

Flat warts are flat-topped, slightly raised lesions. They can appear anywhere, but children usually get them on the face and men tend to get them in the beard area. Women tend to get them on the legs.

Flat warts on limbs

4. Genital Warts:

Genital warts are warts that appear on the genitals and anus. In women, genital warts appear mostly on the vulva but can also occur near the anus, on the cervix or in the vagina. In men, genital warts appear on the penis and scrotum or around the anus.

Genital Warts pictured on the scrotum

Genital warts rarely cause discomfort or pain, though they may itch or feel tender.

How can human papillomavirus (HPV) be treated?

The treatment for human papillomavirus (HPV) depends on the type of infection and the symptoms it causes. For HPV infections that cause visible symptoms, such as warts, treatment may include:

1. Medications:

There are several medications that can be used to treat warts, including topical ointments, creams, and liquids. These medications can be applied directly to the wart to help it disappear.

Applying ointment on warts

2. Cryotherapy:

This treatment involves freezing the wart with liquid nitrogen. The frozen tissue dies and falls off, leaving healthy skin behind.

Cryotherapy

3. Surgical removal:

In some cases, warts may need to be removed surgically. This can be done through a variety of methods, such as excision (cutting the wart out), laser surgery, or electrosurgery (burning the wart with electricity).

Surgically removing warts

Conclusion: How can HPV be prevented?

If human papillomavirus (HPV) is not treated early, it can lead to complications including cancer (penile, cervical and anal and throat cancer), worse warts condition and sexual problems.

Getting vaccinated, using protection like condoms during sex, reducing sex partners, getting regular screenings and avoiding tobacco use are a few preventive measures against HPV.

It is important to see a healthcare provider if you have any symptoms that concern you or if you have been exposed to HPV. Early treatment can help prevent complications and reduce the risk of HPV-related cancer.

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