HPV, human papilloma virus, is a virus that is very common in both men and women. There are over hundred types of HPV. Each type is assigned a number. They are referred to as the papillomaviruses since some HPV types cause papillomas or warts. Papillomas are non-cancerous tumors
HPV can affect the moist membranes that line parts of the body and the skin surfaces too. In women, you can find them on the vagina, cervix, and anus. For men, they are found on the urethra and foreskin. Other areas include the mouth, throat, nose, trachea, and eyelids.
HPV is usually passed on through genital contact. The virus spreads between persons as soon as they start having sex. The virus is not genetically transmitted. You don’t also have a chance of getting the virus from toilet seats and shared utensils.
HPV is a very common virus. Everyone who is sexually engaged has at least one type of genital HPV. According to Centers for Disease control, approximately 14 million people get an infection every year in the United States.
Why it’s a concern for women
Most people usually do not get any signs and symptoms. In these cases, the HPV goes away on its own without causing any health problems. Some of these cases can be attributed to a strong immune system that fights the infection naturally.
In other cases, HPV does not go away and instead gives rise to genital warts.
The most serious health condition that is associated with HPV is cervical cancer. Some types of high-risk HPVs can cause changes to a woman’s cervix leading to cancer.
Taking a pap smear can help identify if one has cell changes in the cervix resulting from high-risk HPV. There is an option of an HPV test that can rule out the types of high-risk HPV. Getting a positive HPV test does not mean that you have, or you will get cervical cancer. It only means that you are at a high risk of developing cell changes.
How to reduce the risk of HPV
Condoms lower the chances of passing on HPV during sex. However, areas that are not covered by condom may be infected, and thus, condoms cannot fully protect against HPV.
Having numerous sex partners or having a partner who has or has had many sexual partners also increases the risk. Vaccines are available to inhibit infection with certain HPV types.