HEALTH & WELLNESS
Human Papillomavirus aka HPV: One of the Most Common STIs
Many people may think that the most commonly transmitted sexually transmitted infections are chlamydia, syphilis, or some form of hepatitis. However, you might be surprised to find that it is actually the Human Papillomavirus, commonly known as HPV.
In fact, nearly every sexually active adult will at some point contract HPV in their lives as will some people who aren’t sexually active. What’s even more concerning is that the 40 different types of HPV virus can either be wholly benign or cause painful complications and even promote cancer.
How Is HPV Transmitted?
The reason HPV is so common is due to the fact that it is a pernicious virus which spreads through skin-to-skin contact, often through sexual intercourse, but even just by accidentally contacting an infected person. Obviously, the chance of contracting the virus increases through unprotected sex, but the same holds true for directly touching a human papillomavirus infected part of the skin or any object which has come into contact with an infected person.
Further, those who have multiple sexual partners, as well as those whose ages range from young adults to children, and people with diminished immune systems from being sick or taking HIV medications are particularly susceptible to contracting HPV.
What Are the Symptoms of HPV?
Generally speaking, HPV actually doesn’t manifest in every infected person. In most cases, the body is able to ward off the infection just fine without any adverse effects. Consequently, though, many people may spread it without knowledge.
However, in some cases, specific variants of HPV do cause some severe symptoms which are potentially lethal if untreated. Further, depending on the type of infection and whether or not it is detected the degree to which HPV affects men and women can differ.
Before we get into gender-specific infections, the most common symptom of HPV infection in both sexes is the development of warts, which show up around one-three months after infection. Typically, these warts physically appear to be no different than common warts you may have experienced before. However, it can cause pain, bleeding and leave you susceptible to other infections.
In addition to common warts, the human papillomavirus can cause plantar warts which appear on the soles or balls of the foot. Although they are easy to get rid off, these persistent hard growths can also cause immense discomfort. Besides common and plantar warts, HPV may cause raised, flat-ended legions or flat warts, which may appear anywhere on the body, though men get them around their lower face and neck, while women usually find them on their legs.
HPV Symptoms in Men
Statistically speaking, men are less likely to get any complications or experience any symptoms of HPV infection. However, that does not mean that a mild infection cannot have some serious deleterious effects if ignored. Most often, symptomatic HPV infections cause warts on the penis or scrotum, in the mouth or throat and even on the anus.
While oral HPV can go away on its own, it’s worth noting that in some cases this can lead to lesions developing in the mouth and along the upper respiratory tract.
HPV Symptoms in Women
In addition to being more likely to show signs of being infected with the virus, women can experience additional complications when they have contracted HPV. For example, when women develop genital warts, they can infect the cervix and lead to pregnancy complications.
Finally, in rare cases HPV, it can promote the development of cancer, particularly cervical cancer. If left untreated, cervical cancer may metastasis and spread throughout the vagina, bladder, rectum, lungs, and, ultimately lead to death.
It’s important to remember that most HPV viruses which causes warts, do not cause cancer.
What Are the Treatments for HPV?
While it may sound like a daunting infection, preventing, treating, and detecting HPV is a straightforward process. First, if you have not, or at least think you have not been infected, consult your healthcare provider about getting an HPV vaccination.
Preventative shots such as Cervarix, Gardasil, and Gardasil 9, have been repeatedly tested and shown to be a safe, effective method of immunizing yourself from contracting the virus. Further, since HPV vaccinations are effective at protecting one from developing both genital warts and cervical cancer, medical authorities now recommended that children be vaccinated against HPV as well.
Moving on, while there is no approved method of detecting the human papillomavirus in asymptomatic men, women can find out if they are carrying a potentially cancer-causing variant of the virus through a pap smear. While you don’t need to get checked often, physicians recommend that most women get a pap smear done about every three years. With respect to women and men who do eventually develop warts, which they think is the result of an HPV infection a doctor should be able to identify them at a glance.
Typically, if the warts are minor but don’t go away on their own, the physician may remove the wart with cryotherapy or a specially formulated cream. In only rare cases is surgery needed.
Alternatively, you can purchase over-the-counter freeze therapy treatments, creams which reduce the warts size and boost the immune system or try other home remedies which alleviate the symptoms of the human papillomavirus warts. While these treatments will not eliminate the virus’s presence in the body, the symptoms can easily be managed, and the degree of infection can be drastically reduced. Of course, we strongly suggest that if you do become infected, to practice safe sex with all of your partners.
Ultimately, by merely knowing your status, getting vaccinated and practicing safe sex, HPV is an easy-to-avoid infection. Even if you do get it and experience symptoms, relax and seek medical advice to prevent long-term complications. After all, this virus doesn’t have to complicate your life, so don’t over-complicate dealing with it.