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What is HPV?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is an infection that causes warts in various parts of the body, depending on the strain. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection where the sexual partners may not develop any notable symptoms but can still infect others through sexual contact. Currently, there exists no way to treat the HPV virus but there are a variety of antiviral treatments for the health problems caused by HPV. For instance, genital warts can be treated by your healthcare provider or with prescription medication. If left untreated, genital warts may go away, stay the same, or grow in size or number. In most cases, HPV infections are cleared away through their immune systems. Find out more about HPV below.

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What is HPV?

HPV or ‘Human papillomavirus’ is a viral infection that is passed from the infected person to a new host through skin-to-skin contact. There are over a hundred different varieties of HPV, more than forty of which can be passed through sexual contact that can impact your genitals, throat, or mouth. In fact, experiencing HPV in mouth is so common that most sexually active individuals are likely to get some strain of it at some point, even when they do not have too many sexual partners. Some of the cases of HPV may not result in any health problems. However, others can lead to the growth of genital warts, as well as cancers in the throat, anus, and cervix.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Image Source: Medical News Today

Causes of Human papillomavirus

The virus that causes the human papillomavirus infection is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. Most people get a genital infection through contact that is sexual. As HPV is a result of skin-to-skin connection, intercourse is not necessary for it to transmit across hosts. In fact, many people struggle with the human papillomavirus and do not even know that they do. Even if your partner does not have human papillomavirus, you still have the potential to contract it by skin-to-skin contact with somebody who does.

It is also possible for an individual to get multiple types of HPV. In a few rare cases, a mother with HPV can transmit the virus to her baby during its delivery. In these rare circumstances, it is possible for the newborn to develop a condition that is known as ‘recurrent respiratory papillomatosis’ in which HPV-related warts grow inside the child’s airway or throat.

HPV symptoms

  • Often, an HPV infection does not result in any noticeable symptoms or health conditions. In fact, about 90% of human papillomavirus infections go away on their own without any intervention within the span of two years, as per the CDC.
  • However, since the virus is still in a person’s body during the time, the person is still a vector for it. This means they can still transfer the virus to others.
  • If the virus doesn’t go away on its own, it can result in grave health complications for others. These include genital warts, as well as warts in the throat that are known as recurrent respiratory papillomatosis.
  • HPV can also result in cervical cancer and other types of cancers such as that of the head, genitals, neck, and throat. Cancers that are caused by HPV can often be invisible until later stages of tumor growth.
  • The types of HPV that result in warts are different from the types that can cause cancer. This is why having genital warts that are caused by HPV does not mean that one will develop cancer.
  • Regular checks with one’s doctor or physician can aid in diagnosing HPV-related health conditions, especially if one thinks they are at risk of developing it. This can improve one’s outlook as well as one’s chances of survival.

HPV Symptoms in men

Many men that are infected with the human papillomavirus infection show no symptoms, although some may result in genital warts. Make sure that you see your doctor in case you notice any unusual lesions or bumps in your scrotum, anus, or penis. Some strains of HPV can result in throat cancer, as well as anal or penile cancer. Those with a weakened immune system are much more likely to develop HPV-related cancers. Strains of HPV that cause genital warts are not the same as those that can result in cancer.

HPV Symptoms in women

It is estimated that 80% of women will contract at least one kind of human papillomavirus infection during their lifetime. Similar to the men, many women that are infected by HPV do not have any symptoms, and the infection leaves without resulting in any health complications. Some women may notice that they have genital warts, which can appear on the inside of the vagina, in or around the anus, as well as on the vulva or cervix. Certain strains of HPV can cause cervical cancer or cancers of the vagina, throat, or anus. Regularly screening one’s reproductive parts can aid in catching the virus before it progresses to a degree that is dangerous.

HPV Mode of Transmission

HPV can be spread through having penetrative and oral intercourse with someone who has the virus. HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms. Additionally, HPV infections are so common as they can also be spread without intercourse – simply through skin-to-skin contact. It’s very rare to catch HPV through hugging, holding hands, or a toilet seat. Its also possible to develop HPV symptoms years after being exposed to the virus, making it difficult to trace when one was infected.

HPV Diagnosis

Unfortunately, there is no blood test or swab that can test for HPV. A routine check-up for one’s sexual health at the doctors/clinic will also not be able to detect skin viruses, like HSV or HPV. One can conduct an HPV test which is simply done using the same sample from the pap smear test or by collecting a separate sample from the cervical canal. HPV can be diagnosed only if a person has visible warts on genital skin or if they have an abnormal cervical smear result.

HPV Treatment

Currently, there exists no way to treat an HPV virus. However, there are a variety of antiviral treatments for the health problems that HPV can cause. For instance, genital warts can be treated by your healthcare provider or with prescription medication. If left untreated, genital warts may go away, stay the same, or grow in size or number. For most people, HPV infections are cleared away through their immune systems.

HPV Home Remedies

The following home remedies can help in soothing the pain and swelling of genital sores which are the result of an HPV infection.

● Cool Compress:

Another way to reduce swelling is to apply a cool compress. Apply a clean soft washcloth or an icepack to the affected area, and repeat every four hours.

● Warm compress:

As soon as you feel a sore forming, it may be useful to apply heat to it. Heat can help in minimizing the pain and swelling.

● Topical Garlic:

Garlic is known to be anti-inflammatory. Dilute garlic cloves in olive oil overnight, and apply this mixture to sores to aid in reducing the inflammation.

● Baking soda/Cornstarch paste:

Applying a paste of water made of baking soda or corn starch can also aid in drying out lesions and relieving itching.

HPV Prevention

The following tips can aid in preventing catching an HPV infection.

  • Get an HPV vaccine
  • Practice safe sexual intercourse through the use of condoms and dental dams. These may not completely prevent catching the infection, but lower one’s risk.
  • Consume a diet rich in B complex vitamins like cyanocobalamin and folate.
  • Ensure your vitamin D levels are within the normal range so that your immune system is able to ward off potential infections.

The Bottom Line

Most cases of human papillomavirus infection go away on their own, so there’s no HPV treatment for the infection itself. Instead, it is likely that one’s doctor will want you to come in for repeated testing each year so you can see if your infection has persisted. These costs can add up quickly so make sure you are covered financially with the aid of health insurance. Health insurance can compensate for one’s hospitalization expenses, prescription costs, doctor’s visits, and more. Browse health insurance plans so you can ease the burden of an HPV infection.  

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