HPV (Human Papillomavirus) infection
HPV infection is a viral infection that usually causes the growth of warts (warts) on the skin or mucous membranes. There are more than 100 types of human papillomavirus (HPV). Some types of HPV infection cause warts and some different types of cancer.
Most HPV infections do not lead to cancer. But some types of genital HPV can cause cancer of the lower part of the uterus that attaches to the vagina (cervix). Other types of cancer have been linked to HPV, including cancers of the anus, penis, vagina, vulva, and back of the throat (oropharyngeal).
These infections are often transmitted sexually or through other skin-to-skin contacts. Vaccines can help protect against the strains of HPV most likely to cause genital warts or cervical cancer.
In most cases, your body’s immune system defeats an HPV infection before it develops warts. When warts do appear, they vary in appearance depending on the type of HPV is involved:
- Genital warts. These appear as flattened lesions, small cauliflower-like bumps, or small stalk-like protrusions. In women, genital warts often appear on the vagina, but can also occur in the anus, cervix, or even near the vagina.
- In men, genital warts can occur on the penis and scrotum or around the anus. Genital warts rarely cause discomfort or pain, although they can feel itchy or tender.
- Common warts. Common warts appear as rough, high bumps and usually occur on the hands and fingers. In most cases, common warts are simply unnoticed, but they can cause pain or injury, or bleeding.
- Plantar warts. Plant warts are hard, grainy growths that usually appear on the heels or balls of your feet. These warts can cause discomfort.
- Flat warts. Flat warts Flat upper, slightly raised lesions. They can appear anywhere, but children usually get them on the face and men get them on the beard area. Women tend to get them on their feet.
Almost all cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus infection, but it can take up to 20 years or more for cervical cancer to develop after HPV infection. HPV infection and early cervical cancer usually do not cause significant symptoms. Vaccination against HPV infection is the best protection against cervical cancer.
Since early cervical cancer does not cause symptoms, women should have regular screening tests to detect any early changes in the cervix that could lead to cancer. Current guidelines recommend a Pap test every three years for women between the ages of 21 and 29.
Women between the ages of 30 and 65 are advised to have a Pap test every three years or once every five years. Women over the age of 65 can stop the test if three consecutive normal Pap tests or two HPV DNA and Pap tests do not show abnormal results.
HPV infection occurs when the virus enters your body, generally through a cut, abrasion, or small tear in your skin. The virus is transferred primarily by skin-to-skin contact.
Genital HPV infections are contracted through sexual intercourse, anal intercourse, and other skin-to-skin contacts in the genital area. Some HPV infections that cause oral or upper respiratory tract infections are contracted through oral sex.
If you are pregnant and have a Human Papillomavirus infection with genital warts, your baby may be infected. Rarely, the infection can cause cancerous growth in the baby’s larynx (larynx).
Warts are infectious. They can spread through direct contact with a wart. Warts can also spread when someone touches something that already touched a wart.
HPV infections are common. Risk factors for HPV infection include:
- The number of sexual partners. The more sexual partners you have, the more likely you are to get genital HPV infection. Having sex with a partner who has multiple sexual partners also increases your risk.
- Age. Common warts often occur in children. Genital warts often appear in adolescents and young adults.
- Weakened immune systems. People with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for Human Papillomavirus infection. Immunosuppressive drugs used after HIV / AIDS or organ transplantation can weaken the immune system.
- Damaged skin. Areas of perforated or opened skin are more likely to develop common warts.
- Personal contact. Touching someone’s warts or wearing protective clothing before exposing exposed surfaces to HPV, such as public showers or swimming pools, can increase your risk of HPV infection.
- Oral and upper respiratory lesions. Some HPV infections can cause sores on your tongue, tonsils, soft palate or your larynx, and nose
- Cancer. Certain strains of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cervical cancer. These strains can also contribute to cancers of the genitals, anus, mouth, and upper respiratory tract.
When to see a doctor
If you or your child has any warts that are causing discomfort, embarrassment, or pain, consult your doctor.