Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Genital Warts

What is HPV?

Human papilloma virus, or better known as HPV, is a common sexually transmitted infection that most people don’t know about. The virus is so common that it has been estimated that about 80% of the population is infected with an HPV strain. This is not so surprising considering that there are more than a hundred strains of HPV

Around thirty strains of HPV are classified under sexually transmitted diseases. The virus are called papilloma viruses due to developments of warts, or papillomas, on patients with the virus. There are HPV virus that are considered low risk and develop non-cancerous warts, but there are also high risk strains which increases the development of different kinds of cancers.

How do you get HPV or genital warts?

HPV can be spread through vaginal, anal and oral sex. According to studies, around 75 % of sexually active men and women will develop at least one HPV infection in their lifetime. Although, no definite cure nor treatment still exists for HPV, having a healthy immune systems is capable of fighting off the infection and eventually removing it from the patient’s body.

What are the symptoms of HPV?

Another problem with contracting HPV is the absence of visible symptoms. Although, one might argue that the need to check for visible symptoms is already unnecessary since there is no cure or treatment in the first place. However, the issue here is spreading the virus. Not knowing whether you’re infected or not means you can easily spread the virus to other people and even though your body might be able to fight off the virus, other people might not be so lucky which could result to other diseases such as cancer.

There are certain strains that do manifest visible symptoms. Depending on the HPV strain, among the symptoms are genital warts which are like miniature cauliflower florets. The wars are commonly flesh-colored, soft and moist and most often appear on the vulva, cervix and in or around the vagina in women and on the scrotum or penis in men. In some instances, the warts develop in or around the anus, thighs, buttocks or throat.

The reason why warts appear in these areas is because papilloma viruses are attracted to and are able to live only in squamous epithelial cells. These thin, flat cells are often found on the surface of the skin, cervix, vagina, anus, vulva, head of the penis, mouth, and throat.

What is the treatment for genital warts?

Because treatment does not exist, the best approach is always prevention. The best tool at your disposal is abstinence. Not having sex and having a single partner who is not infected is the best option you have to avoid contracting HPV. It is also quite fortunate that there are two HPV vaccines available, Gardasil from Merck and Co’s. And Cervarix from GlaxoSmithKline.

If developing warts is not motivation enough for you to stop your promiscuous sexual relations, then what about recent studies which show that the rate of oropharyngeal cancers like tonsil and base of tongue cancers are increasing and the medical community are identifying the HPV as the main cause.