Genital human papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted disease, and there are more than 100 different types of this virus. The HPV virus causes warts to develop, and there are 40 different strands responsible for the warts that form on the genitals. HPV can cause serious health problems if it is not addressed, and can affect both males and females. It is transmitted through genital contact, most often during vaginal or anal sex and can also infect the throat and mouth. Knowledge is the most important thing for prevention, so here are some important facts about HPV:
- Anyone who has ever been sexually active is at risk for this disease. In fact, nearly all sexually active men and women will get it at one point in their lives. An estimated 79 million Americans have HPV, and 14 million more will have it in the next year.
- In most cases the HPV virus can go away on its own before causing any health problems. In fact, 90% of cases go away on their own within two years. However, there is no certain way to tell who will develop health problems as a result of the HPV versus who won’t. Because of this, most people aren’t even aware that they have this STI, which is probably why it is the most commonly transmitted STI.
- A person can still have HPV even if it has been years since they have had sexual contact with the infected person. It is also possible to get more than one type of HPV.
- The different types of HPV are responsible for warts developing on different areas of the body. There are genital warts, which appear as flat lesions, small cauliflower bumps or tiny stem like protrusions. In women, these are typically found on the vulva, cervix, or anus. In men, these warts appear on the penis and scrotum as well as around the anus. These warts usually do not cause pain. Plantar warts can form on the hands, fingers, and around fingernails. Flat warts can appear on the face, neck, hands, wrists, elbows, and knees. Warts typically appear weeks to months after exposure.
- HPV can cause a spectrum of serious health problems, including cancer. Some of these include vaginal, vulvar, anal, penile, and oropharyngeal cancers. According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, HPV is thought to causes an estimated: 2,100 vulvar cancers, 500 vaginal cancers, 600 penile cancers, 2,800 anal cancers in women, 1,500 anal cancers in men, 1,700 oropharyngeal cancers in women, and 6,700 oropharngeal cancers in men. Of these, 21,000 are potentially preventable by HPV vaccines.
- Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by two specific types of genital HPV. These two HPV strands happen to be ones that don’t show symptoms, so women typically don’t realize that they have it. Early stages of cervical cancer don’t show symptoms which is why it’s important for women to get regular pap tests to detect precancerous changes of the cervix that can lead to cancer.
- People can lower their chances of getting HPV by getting vaccines. The two types of vaccines that are out now are Cervarix and Gardasil. These vaccines are safe and effective at protecting girls and boys against the most common forms of HPV.
- Other ways to prevent contracting HPV include the regular use of condoms as well as staying in a monogamous sexual relationship.
- Usually the treatment for HPV includes some type of medication such has Salicylic acid or Podofilox. If medications aren’t enough some medical procedures such as freezing off the warts or surgical removal may be necessary.
HPV is a serious health condition that should not be taken lightly. Prevention and treatment are crucial in making sure that HPV doesn’t cause a more serious health condition that could potentially lead to death.