Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a term used to describe a family of more than 100 viruses, some of which cause warts and are physically transmitted. In fact, thirty of the one hundred viruses can be transmitted through person-to-person contact, particularly sexual contact. HPV is not a disease to be taken lightly, as it can be easily spread and can cause long-term damage to its hosts.
Some HPVs come and go over the course of several years, while others remain with the patient indefinitely, causing random “flare-ups” of symptoms. There are some versions of HPV that that cause cellular abnormalities, while others do not, and some people are not even aware that they have contracted it. A close examination and blood work are the only tools used to diagnose HPVs.
HPV is most commonly associated with warts, which may form on the hands, feet, genitals and even on the face. For the most part, HPVs are innocuous, and cause more cosmetic concerns than anything else. Plantar warts, which develop on the sole of the foot, can be painful and are commonly associated with HPV.
When warts develop on the genitals, this is a more serious health concern because the risks for cervical cancer and other types of genital abnormalitiesare elevated. Genital warts are most commonly associated with HPV-6 and HPV-11, and will appear after sexual intercourse with an infected person. In most cases, no other symptoms appear, and the warts may appear and disappear at random. In most cases, sufferers will receive their first outbreak within two days of contracting the virus.
HPV has recently been observed as one of the most common and effective reasons for cervical and penile cancer. The immune system is depressed due to the presence of HPV, and the area becomes a haven for different types of cancers. Patients diagnosed with HPV should have regular screenings for cancer and should be made aware of these possibilities.
HPVs are usually designated into two categories: low risk and high risk. Low risk HPVs rarely cause cancer or secondary infections, and although they may cause the development of abnormal cells, the risk for secondary illness is low. High risk HPVs, on the other hand, are most commonly known to lead to cancer. Sexually transmitted high risk HPVs typically result in barely-raised growths that are often not discovered until after cancer develops. Low risk HPVs are the ones that cause warts.
Obviously, a person with multiple sexual partners is more likely to contract an HPV than people in monogamous relationships or those who practice abstinence. If you do engage in sexual intercourse with more than one person, you should have yourself regularly tested for HPV as well as other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The development of cancer as a result of an HPV is usually dependent upon multiple factors. The presence of other diseases is obviously a high risk factor, as well as a family history of cervical, ovarian or penile cancer. Smoking is also known to increase the risk of developing cancer, as well as multiple pregnancies.
HPVs work by inhibiting or attacking natural proteins in the human body. HPV itself produces a protein that might be harmful to different systems or tissues in the body. Each type of HPV produces a different type of protein, so all of the variations must be treated differently.
There are no treatments available for HPV at this time, though vaccines are being tested as a preventative for cancer and secondary infections. The best way to avoid HPV is to only engage in sexual intercourse with partners who have been tested for the disease. If you think that you might be infected by HPV, see a doctor as soon as possible to discuss your options.