HPV or Human Papillomavirus is one of the most commonly transmitted virus during unprotected sexual activity. Oftentimes, people infected with the virus don’t show signs and symptoms and without proper treatment, the infection can lead to cervical cancer or cancer of the mouth, penis, anus and much more.
What is HPV?
There are over 100 related viruses in the HPV group and each type of virus is identified through a name or a number. Some types cause warts commonly on foot areas and hands.
However, about 40 types of HPV are sexually transmitted and can infect the mucosal layers of the anus and genitals.
Since the virus is very common, sexually active men and women can contract the virus at some point in their lives. Most of these viruses are asymptomatic, harmless and could go away on their own.
But, some types of HPV can hide undetected inside the body that’s why it’s quite difficult to tell when someone is infected with the virus, how long they may have been infected and who transferred it to them.
Some types of the virus could also cause genetic mutations in the cell which can lead to oral, throat, anal or cervical cancers.
How Does HPV Spread?
Sexually transmitted types of HPV can spread through direct contact with genital skin, body fluids and mucous membranes of an infected individual. You can get HPV infection when you perform oral, anal and vaginal sex with someone who has the virus. Using a condom will not spare you from getting the virus because it can also spread through close body contact with the person infected.
Does HPV Cause Serious Health Problems?
HPV infection normally goes away months after contracting it. However, those types that don’t go away on its own could lead to the development of warts on the hands, feet, mouth and the genital area. The types that cause cancer are different from the types which cause genital warts.
Specifically, Human Papillomavirus are categorized into high-risk and low-risk types. High-risk strains of HPV highly develop into cancer. While low-risk strains could cause genital warts but rarely develops into malignant tumors.
Genital warts can be flat, bumpy or unusually shaped like cauliflower. A healthcare provider can determine a genital wart through examining your genital area.
How Can I Determine If I Have The Virus?
Because HPV is the most common sexually-transmitted infection, most people don’t know that they have the virus. For women who are sexually active, a Pap test will determine abnormalities in the cervix which can be caused by HPV. A specific HPV test can also be done both for men and women to determine the presence of the virus.
Because it is quite hard for men to be diagnosed with HPV, some doctors are pushing for anal Pap test especially for men who engage in anal sex. The routine is quite the same with female Pap test wherein a physician collects cells from the anal region and it is sent to a lab to check for abnormalities.
How Do I Treat HPV Infection?
As of this date, no known direct medications exist for HPV. For harmless HPV infections, treatments are not really necessary. However, treatments are available for abnormal changes in the cervical cells which include cryotherapy, LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure), and colposcopy. Treatments of HPV infection only involves management of health problems caused by the disease.
How Can I Prevent Getting The Virus?
HPV vaccines could protect you from getting 2 types of HPV that cause cancer including other HPV related health problems. It is usually given in 3 shots for the course of six months. It is also important that women of reproductive age should have routine cervical screening tests to ensure your reproductive health is always on top.
If you have a partner and both of you are sexually active, you must always observe safe sex by using condoms. Although it won’t absolutely save you from getting the virus, condoms can lower your chances of getting infected by the virus.
And the best of all is, being faithful and staying in a monogamous relationship. That could greatly lower your risk of having the virus.
In the event you have been diagnosed positive for HPV, you shouldn’t be ashamed or frightened. Most people will have this virus at some point in their lives and usually gets treated when they seek proper help. If you have HPV, better go to the near health care facility and ask for professional advice.
In that way, they can provide you with necessary measures on how to eliminate the virus and prevent it from getting transmitted. Avoid intimate sexual practices which involve close skin-to-skin contact and it is advised that men should always wear a condom as it can protect you from other types of STIs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia.