What Is HPV? Human Papillomavirus Symptoms

The Human Papillomavirus or more commonly known as HPV is the term used for a group of more than 150 viruses. Although most of these viral infections do not manifest in humans, there are around 30 to 40 types of the virus that do which may cause the appearance of cutaneous formations like condylomas and papillomas. The name Papillomavirus derives from papillomas which in simple terms means warts. Warts may be flat, in the form of small bumps or they may also be cauliflower-shaped.

HPV infections are transferred primarily through sexual contact making the Human Papilloma Virus the leading cause of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) worldwide. In a few instances, some types of HPV infections may cause cancer. In women, it is cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina and the anus. In men, the areas most affected are the penis, the tongue, tonsils and the throat. The most common HPV strains that cause infections in the anogenital tract of humans are HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18. Other HPV types like HPV-5 may still cause warts but those are likely to appear on other sensitive parts of the body rather than in the anogenital area.

The majority of people carrying HPV infections do not usually have common symptoms of the Human Papillomavirus and are usually cleared of its presence after some years. However, once a person has been infected with HPV they are still capable of transmitting HPV infections to other sexual partners. In order to tell if a person is infected, he or she has to undergo some HPV DNA tests.

HPV infections are classified into two groups: the “low-risk” HPV infections and the “high-risk” HPV infections. Low-risk HPV types include HPV-6 and HPV-11, which create abnormalities in cells and are responsible for the appearance of genital warts. These HPV types are those that are curable and the abnormalities caused by them do not turn into cancer. On the other hand, HPV-16 and HPV-18 and a few other types of HPV are termed as oncogenic, carcinogenic thus are high-risk for developing cancer. These are persistent infections causing abnormalities in cells that lead to cancers in women such as severe dysplasia of the cervix.

All sexually active people are at risk of contracting the Human Papillomavirus. Having multiple sexual partners heightens the risks of getting infected with HPV so staying in a monogamous relationship is advantageous. The Human Papillomavirus infections are commonly transmitted through skin contact and the use of condoms to protect both the male and female genital regions are not a guarantee for not becoming infected. Studies have shown however, that condoms have been associated with lowering a woman’s chances of contracting the virus and getting cervical cancer.

There is no medical treatment to cure the Human Papilomavirus itself, however there are methods to remove common warts, genital warts or cervical lesions caused by various types of the HPV infections.

Cryosurgery or freezing, loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) and conization are just some of these methods. The last two involve the removal of tissue from the affected area. There are drugs available for treating genital warts as well.

Two vaccines have been developed and approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for general use. Gardasil® and Cervarix® have proven to be effective against HPV infections particularly in treating high-risk HPVs such as HPV-16 and HPV-18.

Apart from various methods of wart removal treatments mentioned above it is important to keep your immune system healthy. High immune resistance will naturally fight the presence of HPV infections in your body therefore eliminating the appearance of warts.