Human papillomavirus infection

Other names: HPV infection

DEFINITION

HPV infection causes warts. More than 100 varieties of human papillomavirus (HPV) exist. Different types of HPV infection can cause warts on different parts of your body. Most HPV infections don't lead to Cancer, but some types of genital HPV can cause Cancer of the cervix.

SYMPTOMS

In most cases, your body's immune system defeats an HPV infection before it has a chance to create any warts. When warts do appear, they may vary in appearance depending on which variety of HPV is involved.

CAUSES

HPV infection occurs when the virus enters your body through a cut, abrasion or small tear in the outer layer of your skin. Genital HPV infections are contracted through sexual intercourse, anal sex, and other skin-to-skin contact in the genital region.

RISK FACTORS

Risk factors for HPV infection include the number of sexual partners, age, weakened immune systems, damaged skin, and personal contact with infected surfaces.

COMPLICATIONS

Complications of HPV infection may include oral and upper respiratory lesions and various types of cancer.

PREPARING FOR YOUR APPOINTMENT

Before your appointment with a healthcare provider, prepare questions about the likely cause of symptoms, tests needed, prevention strategies, medication alternatives, follow-up plans, and additional resources.

TESTS AND DIAGNOSIS

Diagnosis of HPV infection may involve visual inspection or tests such as vinegar solution test, Pap test, and DNA test to identify high-risk HPV strains linked to cancers.

TREATMENTS AND DRUGS

Warts often disappear without treatment but may require medications like salicylic acid or procedures such as cryotherapy if persistent. Surgical removal may be necessary in some cases.

LIFESTYLE AND HOME REMEDIES

Preventive measures include avoiding picking at warts or biting nails for common warts, wearing shoes in public areas to prevent plantar warts, and practicing safe sex to reduce the risk of genital warts. Vaccines like Gardasil and Cervarix are available to protect against certain HPV strains causing genital warts and cervical cancer.


QUESTIONS

  1. What is HPV?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of viruses that can cause warts on different parts of the body.

  1. How is HPV transmitted?

HPV is primarily transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, including sexual intercourse and other forms of intimate contact.

  1. What are the symptoms of HPV infection?

Symptoms can vary depending on the type of HPV but may include genital warts, common warts on hands or feet, and flat warts on the face or neck.

  1. Can HPV lead to cancer?

Certain strains of genital HPV can lead to cervical cancer in women and other types of cancer in both men and women.

  1. How is HPV diagnosed?

Diagnosis may involve visual inspection by a healthcare provider or tests like Pap smear and DNA testing for high-risk strains.

  1. Are there treatments for HPV infections?

Warts caused by HPV can be treated with medications like salicylic acid or procedures such as cryotherapy or surgical removal if needed.

  1. How can I prevent HPV infections?

Prevention strategies include practicing safe sex, limiting sexual partners, avoiding contact with infected surfaces, and getting vaccinated with Gardasil or Cervarix.

  1. Who should get the HPV vaccine?

The CDC recommends routine vaccination for girls and boys aged 11-12 years old and catch-up vaccinations for individuals up to age 26 based on risk factors.

  1. What are the risks associated with untreated HPV infections?

Untreated HPV infections can lead to complications such as oral lesions, respiratory tract lesions, and various types of cancer.

  1. When should I see a doctor for suspected HPV infection?

If you have visible warts causing discomfort or embarrassment or suspect you have been exposed to HPV through sexual contact, consult a healthcare provider for evaluation and management.