Human papilloma virus
By Lauren Way
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most prevalent sexually transmitted infection being the most common and fastest spreading sexually transmitted disease in the United States. Nearly all men and women will contract one strain of it during their lifetime. Most infection found in sexually active females 18-30 years old, with a peak of reactivation in women over 35 years of age. It is named for the warts (or papillomas) that the virus has the potential to cause. There are over 150 related HPV viruses. Over 40 are spread through direct sexual contact from the skin and mucous membranes of those infected to their partners. The virus can also be transmitted from mother to baby, or contaminated clothing, gloves, or surgical instruments however that is rare.
Often times, the immune system has the ability to rid the body of the infection, however some strains of HPV can lead to benign warts while others can lead to cancer. HPV can be contagious even without symptoms. Genital warts are one of the most common symptoms of HPV. Genital warts usually appear as a small bump or group of bumps in the genital area. They can vary in appearance, from being small or large, raised or flat or even cauliflower shaped. Some types of HPV can also cause warts on other areas of the body, for example, the hands and feet.
There are an estimated 14 million new cases reported annually. Nearly 80 million people, or 1 in 4, are already infected. The real incidence of HPV infection is very difficult to really know because there is no screening test available for men. HPV can only be diagnosed from scraping of the cervix or from biopsy specimens. There is no blood test, for example, which can diagnosis HPV infection. From the 14 million annually infected, 27,000 of those cases will turn into cancer. The most common cancer caused by HPV is Cervical cancer, almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV. Other types of cancer caused by HPV include; Vulvar cancer, Vaginal cancer, Penile cancer, Anal cancer, and cancer of the back of the throat. Cancer caused by HPV often takes years, or even decades to appear. Although, people with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop health problems from HPV.
To decrease your risk of acquiring HPV there is a vaccination which can decrease the risk of acquiring some of the common and harmful types of HPV. Condoms and other barrier protection can also decrease the risk of transmission. Annual pap smears are very important screening tool to evaluate for atypical cells which can be the result of a HPV infection. These atypical cells can turn into cancer. If atypical cells are found then a deeper biopsy or LEEP procedure is often done.
°HPV infections are extremely common
°There are many types which can have different ability to cause harm
°Symptoms: none to small warts and rarely cancerous lesions
°Testing: common and recommended for women. For man only symptomatic testing is performed to a specific lesion.
°Treatment: excision of infected area or with time, the body can suppress it.
°Prevention: immunization is available for different types of HPV and barrier protection such as condoms can decrease the risk of spread.