what is HPV

Everything You Need to Know About HPV

What is HPV?

First of all, HPV is them, not only it. HPV – Human papilloma virus – is a group of viruses. Contrary to some other STIs, such as chlamydia, which is bacterial, this one has has symptoms produced by viruses. HPV comes in a variety of types, differing in preference as to which body part they are attacking.

Generally HPV infect skin and mucous membrane. Among other areas, the following may be infected:

  • cervix
  • anus
  • mouth and throat

There are about 100 types of HPV, however, only about 30 of the virus types attack genital areas, and are therefore considered to be causes of STIs, strictly speaking. Those also happen to be one of the most dangerous of HPV types.
While others cause warts or verrucas, minor skin problems, that are quite common and rather easy to deal with, STI-types of HPV can have severe impact on health, including linkage to several types of cancer, both in men and women. So, watch out for these!

symtoms hpv

HPV prevalence

In UK, a type of HPV is present in one third of all population. There’s good chance that you’ll come across it at some point in your lifetime. In England in 2016 alone 62,721 people were tested positive for HPV.
Currently, the prevalence of certain – dubbed the most dangerous – types of HPV is currently modified in the UK by Public Health England’s programs of wide vaccination coverage. More information on the effects of the vaccine, and the further suggestions, below.

Diseases caused by HPV

Being infected by HPV is, in a sense, not a disease in its own respect – it’s rather letting something into your organism that can cause a number of secondary diseases, sometimes pretty nasty.

Genital warts

For instance, genital warts are the most common manifestation of HPV infection. Warts are considered an STI in its own respect, being the 2nd most common STI in UK. Those can be transmitted through close skin-to-skin contact, including all types of sex – vaginal, anal and sometimes oral, too, or sharing sex toys.
The warts are not transmitted, however, through any kind of touch – you won’t get them from kissing, or sharing objects other than sex toys, such as towels, cutlery, or toilet seats for that matter.
Warts are the core symptom. HPV can be tricky this way, however, since the warts can go away, even if untreated, but they can go back. The system still has the virus in, and it can either produce warts, or be passed on to another person.
As to the cancer linkage, genital warts are not linked to it. It’s another type of disease caused by HPV infection, and it’s…

HPV and changes in cervix

HPV contraction usually ends up in abnormal changes in cervix. HPV causes the tissue to grow abnormally, and this can sometimes lead to cancer. If any changes in cervix tissue are found, there’s a high probability that there is an underlining HPV infection. 96% of all cervical cancer cases are linked to HPV.
Again, many types of HPV can cause changes in cervix tissue, but there is only some of them are high-risk, clearly contributing to cancer. The latter are especially HPV-16 and HPV-18. When it comes to cancer, early detection is crucial for most effective treatment there is.
For this reason, HPV testing is a standard in NHS Cervical Screening Programme. If, during the testing, abnormalities in the cervix tissue are found, a HPV test immediately follows. Depending on the results, there are many ways of further conduct – more tests, treatment, and so on.
For cervical cancer treatment info, click here.
To get more clarity about how does HPV cause cervical cancer, see the infographic below:

How can hpv cause cancer

HPV and other types of cancer

Apart from being linked to cervical cancer, HPV is said to be in causal relationship to anal cancer (93%), vaginal cancer (64%), oropharyngeal cancer (63%), and vulvar cancer (51%), as well as some penile cancer (36%). Some studies, however inconclusive, point out to HPV DNA presence in tumors all across the body: oral cavity, larynx or lungs.

HPV treatment

There are no meds to get rid of HPV from your system, once infected. It will clear by on its own, usually after around 2 years. There are, however, ways to fight the diseases caused by HPV.
Genital warts can be fought with lotions, creams, and so on, applied directly to the warts. The warts can also be destroyed by removing, heating or freezing the symptomatic tissue..
As for HPV as a cause of cancerogenous cervix tissue changes, perhaps more important than the treatment options is the vaccine. Currently, there are few known and applied in the public health infrastructure vaccines: Gardasil 9, Gardasil and Cervarix. Moreover, for at least a decade there has been a program of vaccinations, covering most of England. The impact of widespread vaccinations on HPV prevalence is displayed in the diagram:

Prevalence of HPV

To get more info on HPV vaccine, visit a dedicated NHS site.

Further recommendations

First of all, HPV, as being a stubborn virus, is easier to be kept away from your system, than to be removed. What are the ways?
Protect yourself! Always use condom, for vaginal or anal sex. Although HPV transmission via oral sex is consider rather rare, for additional protection, use condoms or special dams for oral sex, too. Remember, however, that e.g. genital warts, a disease caused by HPV, covers not only the penis, or vagina, but also skin around genitals – therefore even using a condom might not be enough, therefore…
Self-awareness & self-checking – visual, tactile in order to detect any warts in genital areas; further, self-checking is possible with self-collection HPV test kits. Self-awareness is the key to helping stop spreading of the HPV.
Find out more about the vaccines, and if you’re eligible, get one.
Sources

  • NHS website on HPV and the related pages, linked towards the bottom of the page;
  • https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/sexual-health/what-is-hpv/
  • https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/infections-eg-hpv-and-cancer/hpv-and-cancer
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine Coverage in England, 2008/09 to 2013/14. A review of the full six years of the three-dose schedule, access here:
  • https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/412264/HPV_Vaccine_Coverage_in_England_200809_to_201314.pdf