HPV Infections

February 4, 2009

What Is HPV?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is a condition which is contracted as a result of exposure to one of a group of more than 100 related viruses. Each type of HPV is potentially able to cause an abnormal growth on a particular spot on the body. Genital warts or lesions may form on the genitalia or anus, common warts may appear on the hands or plantar warts may appear on the feet. Warts and other types of lesions may also occur in the mouth or upper respiratory system.

HPV Is An STD

HPV infections are very common, with close to 25 million people in the US carrying infections which produce genital warts and lesions that are related to the virus. Some types of HPV infection can be the cause of cervical cancer or cancer of the genitals, anus, mouth or throat, although not all people infected with these viruses end up with cancer. HPV is considered a sexually transmitted disease.

Even Though They May Be Undetected, The Disease Is Transferrable

Most human papillomavirus infections are undetected because there are no symptoms to alert the infected person to the disease. It is important to know that even if there are no symptoms, HPV can be present and can be transmitted to someone else quite easily. Those who have the virus and are symptomatic may show any of the following signs:

Signs & Symptoms Of HPV

Genital warts, which are not malignant, can look like a flat lesion, a tiny cauliflower -like bump or a small stem-like protrusion which appears in women most commonly on the vulva, near the anus or on the cervix. Most genital warts are caused by HPV virus 6 and 11.

Pre-malignant genital lesions are the result of certain HPV infections causing cellular changes. A Pap test will frequently catch these abnormalities which is why it is advisable for all women to have regular pap tests. Low grade abnormalities will often resolve on their own without the need for intervention and are commonly caused by HPV infections 6 and 11. High grade abnormalities can potentially advance to cancer of the cervix, or other types of cancer. The HPV infections responsible for high grade abnormalities are types 16 and 18.

Oral and upper respiratory lesions and warts may appear on the tongue, tonsils, soft palate and larynx and in the nose. They are caused by low risk types 6 and 11 and high risk types 16 and 18 HPV infections.

Cervical cancer and other tumors result as the risk for cancer is exacerbated by chronic HPV infection which can last for two years or more. Types 16 and 18 HPV infections account for about 70 percent of all cases of cervical cancer. The reason the risk is so high is often because of a lack of Pap test screening which, when done consistently, is able to expose the danger sooner rather than later. Other cancers such as genital, mouth, anus and upper respiratory can all result from HPV infection.

Common warts, plantar warts and flat warts, which are not malignant and generally are simply annoying, may also sometimes be painful when they appear on the body. These types of warts are usually manifested after exposure to HPV infection during childhood.

 

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