The human papillomavirus (HPV)
What is the human papillomavirus?
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of more than 150 types of viruses that mostly manifest with benign lesions such as warts or condylomas. However, there are some with a special ability to infect the genital area, responsible for causing cancer of the uterus, vagina, vulva or penis.
Who does it affect?
HPV is so common that almost all sexually active men and women have it or had it at some point in their life and most do not know or not will know that has acquired it.
People considered to be at high risk are:
- People who have high-risk sexual behavior for not using any method of prevention
- Young women under the age of 25 and in women aged 40-45
- Women with a high number of pregnancies
- Depressed immune system
Symtomatology of the human papillomavirus
Most HPV infections don’t cause symptomatology and disappear on their own. Now those that do not disappear can develop warts or cancer, depending on the type of HPV that has been acquired.
It’s important to know that warts or cancer can take years to appear after a person has become infected.
Having been infected with a particular type of HPV in the past does not guarantee that a new infection can’t be re-acquired by the same type.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection. It’s transmitted by having oral, vaginal or anal intercourse with an infected person because of contact between mucous membranes. It can be transmitted even when the infected person does not present symptomatology.
Types of the human papillomavirus
We can classify it according to their virulence:
- No risk: they have no detrimental effects at all.
- Low risk: can cause genital warts, anal warts, oral warts or in the throat.
- High risk: can cause cell changes that can induce cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina and anus. In men, they can cause cancer of the anus and penis.
The majority of human papillomavirus infections disappear by themselves within 8-13 months of infestation. However there are certain infections that don’t disappear and remain latent in the body for years undetected. It’s for this reason that it is often very difficult to determine the source of infection.
Although there is currently no specific antiviral medical treatment, genital warts are usually treated with topical applications, cryotherapy or with laser treatment.
Cervical scraping smears (Papanicolau) are recommended, as well as the specific tests performed routinely as prevention and as early detection of possible cervical cancer, especially in people considered to be at high risk.