Human Papillomavirus (HPV): Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

HPV is the common term for the human papillomavirus. There are more than 100 different subtypes of HPV, and thirty of them exclusively affect the genital area. Genital warts caused by HPV also referred to as venereal warts or HPV warts.

HPV warts are one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. They affect both men and woman. This STD is highly contagious and is easily spread from one partner to another through the skin to skin contact, sexual contact, or oral contact.

This highly contagious virus can lead to other health issues. Pregnant women are most susceptible because Human Papillomavirus can be spread from mother to child during birth.

Human Papillomavirus and cancer of the cervix
HPV may contribute to the development of cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and oropharynx.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) increases a woman’s risk of cervical cancer. And although it is usually rare, it can also increase the risk of penile cancer in men. According to recent statistics from The American Society estimates for 2017 that more than 360 men in the United States died from penile cancer.

This HP virus has also been associated with cancer of the anus. The risk of anal cancer increases in sexually active bisexual and gay men, with numbers soaring to 17 times greater than heterosexual men. Men whose immune system has been compromised by HIV are also at a higher risk for this cancer.

Treatments for human papillomavirus (HPV)

  • Over-The-Counter (OTC): Salicylic acid for common warts removal
  • surgical interventions: Remove the warts
  • Topical prescription: Medications that will destroy the wart
  • Antiviral Injections

At times, warts can often resolve by themselves without treatment. However, there are topically applied medications to remove warts itself and include an over-the-counter (OTC) salicylic acid for common warts like Compound W or Duofilm, and prescription medications including:

  • Podophyllin (chemical applied by a healthcare provider)
  • Imiquimod (Aldara, Zyclara) Prescription Medicine
  • Podofilox (Condylox) Prescription Medicine
  • Trichloroacetic acid (chemical applied by a healthcare provider)

In certain situations, surgical interventions may be necessary and include:

  • Cryotherapy: a method that uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the abnormal areas
  • Electrocautery: a method that uses an electrical current to burn the abnormal areas
  • Laser therapy: method using a light beam to remove abnormal areas
  • Interferon injection: rarely used due to a high side effect profile and cost
    Surgical removal

It is important to speak with your healthcare provider about which treatment is best for you depending on the type and location of the wart being treated. It is also important to note that although warts and cellular abnormalities may be removed or resolve, the virus can remain in the body and it can be passed to others; there is no treatment to eliminate the virus from the body.

All of these treatments have the potential for side effects. Because a virus causes warts in the body, warts can often come back, even after treatment. An estimated 25% of all cases of HPV warts come back within three months after treatment.

One method, which involved injecting antiviral medication directly into the wart, proved successful in about 30 percent of the patients. However, using this treatment on several warts would be painful and costly.

These warts may not always look the same. They can be clear or pinkish bumps that can be flat or raised, as large as a pea or small and hard to see. They may be single or clustered. Sometimes they are rough and resemble a tiny cauliflower shaped bump on the skin. They almost always itch, however.

They can occur in both sexually active men and women of any age. About half of all sexually active men will get HPV.

In women, these warts usually appear outside of the vagina, but they can also develop inside a woman’s cervix where they are harder to see. In men, they usually appear on the surface of the penis or near his groin. However, they can also appear near the thighs or scrotum, or in the anus.

Because some warts are harder to see or do not develop right away, it is possible to have the infection and not even realize it. In fact, HPV warts may not always appear when the virus is present. Some people are asymptomatic but are still contagious.

If you suspect HPV, avoid sexual contact which will spread this highly contagious virus. You should not ignore HPV warts.

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