Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a viral infection that’s passed between people through skin-to-skin contact. There are over 100 varieties of HPV, Which are passed through sexual contact and can affect genitals, mouth, or throat.
It’s so common that most sexually active people will get some variety of it at some point, even if they have few sexual partners.
Some cases of genital HPV infection may not cause any health problems. However, some types of HPV can lead to the development of genital warts and even cancers of the cervix, anus, and throat.
Causes of Human Papillomavirus
The virus that causes HPV infection is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. Most people get a genital HPV infection through direct sexual contact, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
Because HPV is a skin-to-skin infection, intercourse isn’t required for transmission to occur.
Many people have HPV and don’t even know it, which means you can still contract it even if partners doesn’t have any symptoms. It’s also possible to have multiple types of HPV.
In rare cases, a mother who has HPV can transmit the virus to her baby during delivery. When this happens, the child may develop a condition called recurrent respiratory papillomatosis where they develop HPV-related warts inside their throat or airways.
Symptoms of Human Papillomavirus
Many men that are infected with HPV have no symptoms, although some may develop genital warts,unusual bumps or lesions on penis, scrotum, or anus.
Some strains of HPV can cause penile, anal, and throat cancer in men. Some men may be more at risk for developing HPV-related cancers, including men who receive anal sex and men with a weakened immune system.
It’s estimated that women will contract at least one type of HPV during their lifetime. Like with men, many women that get HPV don’t have any symptoms and the infection goes away without causing any health problems.
Some women may notice that they have genital warts, which can appear inside the vagina, in or around the anus, and on the cervix or vulva.
Some strains of HPV can cause cervical cancer or cancers of the vagina, anus, or throat. Regular screening can help detect the changes associated with cervical cancer in women. Additionally, DNA tests on cervical cells can detect strains of HPV associated with genital cancers.
Testing for HPV is different in men and women.
Pap test, or Pap smear, at age 21, regardless of onset of sexual activity.
Regular Pap tests help to identify abnormal cells in women. These can signal cervical cancer or other HPV-related problems.
Women ages 21 to 29 should have just a Pap test every three years. From ages 30 to 65, women should do one of the following:
- receive a Pap test every three years
- receive an HPV test every five years; it will screen for high-risk types of HPV (hrHPV)
- receive both tests together every five years; this is known as co-testing
Standalone tests are preferred over co-testing, according to the USPSTF.
If some one is younger than age 30, doctor or gynecologist may also request an HPV test if your Pap results are abnormal.
It’s important to note that the HPV DNA test is only available for diagnosing HPV in women. There’s currently no FDA-approved test available for diagnosing HPV in men.
routine screening for anal, throat, or penile cancer in men isn’t currently recommended.
Some doctors may perform an anal Pap test for men that have an increased risk for developing anal cancer. This includes men who receive anal sex and men with HIV.
Anyone who’s had sexual skin-to-skin contact is at risk for HPV infection. Other factors that may put someone at an increased risk for HPV infection include:
- increased number of sexual partners
- unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex
- a weakened immune system
- having a sexual partner that has HPV
If you contract a high-risk type of HPV, some factors can make it more likely that the infection will continue and may develop into cancer:
- a weakened immune system
- having other STIs, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and herpes simplex
- chronic inflammation
- having many children (cervical cancer)
- using oral contraceptives over a long period of time (cervical cancer)
- using tobacco products (mouth or throat cancer)
- receiving anal sex (anal cancer)
Prevention of Human Papillomavirus
The easiest ways to prevent HPV are to use condoms and to practice safe sex.
To prevent health problems associated with HPV, be sure to get regular health checkups, screenings, and Pap smears. e.t.c
HPV and pregnancy
Contracting HPV doesn’t decrease chances of becoming pregnant. If some one is pregnant and have HPV, may wish to delay treatment until after delivery. However, in some cases, HPV infection can cause complications.
Hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy may cause genital warts to grow and in some cases, these warts may bleed. If genital warts are widespread, they may make a vaginal delivery difficult.
When genital warts block the birth canal, a C-section may be required.
In rare cases, a woman with HPV can pass it on to her baby. When this happens, a rare but serious condition called recurrent respiratory papillomatosis may occur. In this condition, children develop HPV-related growths in their airways.
Cervical changes can still occur during pregnancy, so you should plan to continue routine screening for cervical cancer and HPV while you’re pregnant.