Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Sexual Health: Human Papillomavirus (HPV): Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection with most sexually active men and women being exposed to the virus at some point during their lifetime.1,2
The virus is common in the United States, there are approximately 14 million newly diagnosed cases of HPV annually.2 HPV is comprised of approximately 100-150 viral strands, with more than 40 affecting the genitals.1,3
Contents of this article:
  1. What is human papillomavirus?
  2. Symptoms and diagnosis
  3. Treatments and prevention
You will also see introductions at the end of some sections to any recent developments that have been covered by MNT's news stories. Also look out for links to information about related conditions.
Fast facts on human papillomavirus
Here are some key points about human papillomavirus. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
  • Around 80% of sexually active men and women will contract the HPV virus at some point during their lifetime.2
  • Annually, there are 14 million newly diagnosed cases of HPV.2
  • There are approximately 79 million men/women actively infected with the virus at any point in time.2
  • HPV is not spread via bodily fluid; it is a skin-to-skin contact virus and can infect anyone who is or has ever been sexually active and many times, most infected individuals are asymptomatic, meaning they display no symptoms of the virus.1,2
  • HPV can be spread through oral, vaginal or anal sex.1,2
  • At times, HPV can be transmitted during birth to an infant causing genital or respiratory system infections.3
  • There is no cure for HPV.2
  • The strains of HPV known to cause genital warts are low-risk HPV 6 and 11, while the strains of HPV associated with cancer include high-risk HPV 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58.2

What is human papillomavirus?

While most HPV infections are benign causing warts on areas of the body including the hands, feet and genitals, there are certain strains that put a person at a higher risk of developing certain types of cancers.1-3
HPV word collage
HPV is a common and highly contagious infection that can affect your skin, cervix, anus, mouth and throat.
The strains of HPV, which cause a person to develop warts, is not the same group of HPV strains that cause cancer.1
The strains of HPV known to cause genital warts are low-risk HPV 6 and 11, while the strains of HPV associated with cancer include high-risk HPV 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58.2
HPV is a virus which 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 or has ever been sexually active, and sometimes the most infected individuals are asymptomatic, meaning they display no symptoms of the virus.1-3
Most HPV infections self-resolve on their own, however, at times they can remain dormant and later infect a new or existing sexual partner.2

At times, HPV can be transmitted during birth to an infant causing the infant to experience a genital or respiratory system infection.3

Diagnosis of human papillomavirus

If warts or lesions are visible, a health care provider can generally make a diagnosis of HPV during a visual inspection. However, additional tests may need to be completed to evaluate further for the presence of HPV.3
3d image of human papillomavirus
Tests that often need to be completed to evaluate for HPV may include a Pap smear, a DNA test and the use of acetic acid.
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.2,3
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.2,3
Currently, there is also a DNA test for HPV, which can be used alone without the need for concurrent Pap testing starting at age 25.2
The use of an acetic acid solution test will identify lesions that are not easily seen as any abnormal areas affected by HPV will turn white.3 At times, a biopsy of any abnormal areas may be necessary.2
At this time, there is no test available for men to directly test for HPV and diagnosis is made primarily on visual inspection. In certain situations, if men or women have a history of receptive anal sex, it may be advisable to speak with a health care provider regarding the possibility of undergoing an anal Pap smear.2

Treatments for human papillomavirus

At times, warts will often self-resolve without treatment. However, there are topically applied medications to remove the wart itself and include over-the-counter salicylic acid for common warts, and prescription medications including:2,3
HPV vaccine
HPV vaccines are given as a series of three shots over 6 months to protect against HPV infection and the health problems that HPV infection can cause.
  • Podophyllin (chemical applied by a health care provider)
  • Imiquimod (Aldara, Zyclara)
  • Podofilox (Condylox)
  • Trichloroacetic acid (chemical applied by a health care provider).
In certain situations, surgical interventions may be necessary and include:2,3
  • Cryotherapy: a method that uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the abnormal areas
  • Electrocautery: a method that uses an electrical current to burn the abnormal areas
  • Laser therapy: method using a light beam to remove abnormal areas
  • Interferon injection: rarely used due to a high side effect profile and cost
  • Surgical removal.
It is important to speak with your health care provider about which treatment is best for you depending on the type and location of the wart being treated. It is also important to note that although warts and cellular changes may be removed or resolve, the virus can remain in the body and can be passed to others, as there is no treatment to remove the virus from the body.2,3

Prevention of HPV

Although HPV is a very commonly contracted virus, there are certain things that can be done to try to prevent contracting the virus and include abstinence, monogamous sexual relationships, not having sex with visible genital warts and the use of HPV vaccines.2,3
Currently, there are three HPV vaccines on the market and include Gardasil, Cervarix and Gardasil 9.2Speak with your health care provider to see if vaccination is appropriate for you.
Prevention of common warts is difficult. However, not picking a wart or biting the nails when a wart is present is recommended. For plantar warts, it is recommended that shoes/sandals be worn in public areas such as pools and locker rooms.3
Recent developments on human papillomavirus treatment from MNT news
The US is accompanied by few other places where routine vaccination of boys against human papillomavirus is recommended in addition to the more widespread practice of a program for all girls only. The authors of a study in The BMJ say such a policy can bring worthwhile benefit for some male populations.
Researchers have demonstrated that human papillomavirus vaccination is not associated with an increase in sexually transmitted infections, offering reassurance that the vaccine does not promote risky sexual disinhibition.
All information are credited to the original writer's references and sources.

My Note: As much as I can I see my obstetrician gynecologist (OBGYNE) for pap smear procedure annually. If I remember it right 4 or 5 years ago after the result was released with no problem or issue with my health that was the only time I was given the HPV vaccination.

Go to the doctor immediately to minimize the risk of complications. Do not dare to have self medication.

Medical Disclaimer.