Human Papillomavirus (HPV): Facts You Should Know

February 7, 2017

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. About 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. About 14 million people become newly infected each year. HPV is so common that most sexually active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives.

They can affect the skin and the moist membranes that line parts of the body, including

  • The lining of the mouth and throat
  • The vulva
  • The cervix
  • The vagina
  • The anus

There are over 100 types of human papillomavirus (HPV), each one having a number to identify it, for example HPV-6, HPV-11, HPV-16 and HPV-18. Human papillomaviruses are viruses that can infect many parts of the body. Some types of HPV are sexually transmitted and can cause warts or other consequences such as cancer (e.g., cervical, penile and anal). The types of HPV that infect the anal and genital (anogenital) areas are not the same as the ones that infect other areas of the body such as the fingers, hands and face. The types which cause anogenital warts do not usually cause cancer.

The various types of HPV are often classified into low and high risk according to their association with cancer. The “low-risk” types are rarely associated with cancer. The “high-risk” types are more likely to lead to the development of cancer. Although certain types of HPV are associated with cancer, the development of HPV related cancer is considered a rare event.

Most high-risk HPV infections occur without any symptoms, go away within 1 to 2 years, and do not cause cancer. Some HPV infections, however, can persist for many years. Persistent infections with high-risk HPV types can lead to cell changes that, if untreated, may progress to cancer.

Transmission

The HPV virus is spread through direct skin to skin contact with an infected person, most commonly through sexual contact.

The virus can be passed from person to person even if there are no visible warts. Warts that occur elsewhere on the body are caused by different types of HPV and contact does not seem to cause genital warts. If visible warts are treated as soon as they appear, the spread of HPV is reduced. The virus can live in the skin for many years and during that time can be passed on through sexual contact. Even though the warts are gone, HPV can still be living in the genital skin and it is still possible to transmit the virus to the partner. This explains why genital HPV infection spreads easily among sexually active people. It is unknown how long a person with HPV infection remains infectious or can pass the infection on to a sexual partner. Spermicidal foams, creams and gels have not been shown to have any effect against HPV.

In men, genital warts most often appear on the penis, on the scrotum, in or around the anus, or on the groin. For men, HPV infection — including those that can cause cellular changes — cause no symptoms, so diagnosing HPV in men is difficult. The diagnosis of HPV in men is made when external genital warts are seen. Sometimes, a health care provider can see small warts that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. In general, HPV infection does not place a man at a much higher risk for health problems. However, HPV prevention is still important for men, as the virus has been linked to uncommon cancers such as penile, anal, and head and neck.

HPV may also be passed from mother to baby during labour and birth.

Risk Factors

There are certain risk factors that place a person at a higher risk of contracting an HPV virus including –

  • Age – common warts occur most commonly in children, genital warts occur most commonly in adolescents and young adults, and plantar warts occur most commonly in adults but initially occur in adolescents and young adults
  • A higher number of intimate partners
  • Having sexual intercourse with a partner who has had a higher number of intimate partners
  • Those who are immunocompromised
  • Having areas of damaged skin
  • Personal contact with warts or surfaces where HPV exposure has occurred.

HPV and Cancers

High-risk HPVs cause several types of cancer.

  • Cervical cancer – Virtually all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV, and just two HPV types, 16 and 18, are responsible for about 70 percent of all cases.
  • Anal cancer – About 95 percent of anal cancers are caused by HPV. Most of these are caused by HPV type 16.
  • Oropharyngeal cancers (cancers of the middle part of the throat, including the soft palate, the base of the tongue, and the tonsils) – About 70 percent of oropharyngeal cancers are caused by HPV. In the United States, more than half of cancers diagnosed in the oropharynx are linked to HPV type 16.
  • Rarer cancers – HPV causes about 65 percent of vaginal cancers, 50 percent of vulvar cancers, and 35 percent of penile cancers. Most of these are caused by HPV type 16.

High-risk HPV types cause approximately 5 percent of all cancers worldwide. In the United States, high-risk HPV types cause approximately 3 percent of all cancer cases among women and 2 percent of all cancer cases among men.

Symptoms

Many people who have HPV have no symptoms of the infection. Anogenital warts (also called Condylomata) are one sign of HPV infection. They may look like a small cauliflower or may be flat. Many people with HPV will have no obvious signs of infection because the warts may be inside the body or if on the skin, too small to be seen.

In women, warts may appear on the vulva, thigh, anus, rectum, or in the vagina or urethra with the cervix being a common HPV infection site. During pregnancy, the number and size of warts can increase, but usually decrease after delivery. With an inactive infection, the cells of the cervix appear normal under a microscope during a Pap test and the woman may never know she was infected. With an active infection, the cervical cells undergo a change. An active infection can follow one of two courses –

  • The abnormal cells become normal again and the infection is inactive or cleared from the body by the immune system. However, it is possible that an inactive infection can become active again, for reasons that aren’t clearly understood.
  • The abnormal cells slowly progress to cervical cancer.

In men, the warts may appear on the penis, scrotum, thigh, anus, rectum, or in the urethra.

Complications

  • Oral and upper respiratory lesions – Some HPV infections may cause lesions to form on the tongue, tonsils, soft palate, or within the larynx and nose.
  • Cancer – Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by two specific varieties of HPV. These two strains may also contribute to cancers of the genitals, anus, mouth and upper respiratory tract.

Treatment

There is no cure for the virus itself, but many HPV infections go away on their own. In fact, about 70 percent to 90 percent of cases of HPV infection are cleared from the body by the immune system.

When treatment is needed, the goal is to relieve symptoms by removing any visible warts and abnormal cells in the cervix. Treatments might include –

  • Cryosurgery — freezing the warts off with liquid nitrogen
  • Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) — using a special wire loop to remove the abnormal cells
  • Electrocautery — burning off the warts with an electrical current
  • Laser therapy — using an intense light to destroy the warts and any abnormal cells
  • Prescription cream — applying medicated cream directly to the warts (Do not use over-the-counter wart treatments on the genital area.)

In some cases, no treatment is needed. However, the doctor will closely watch any cell changes during the regular screening appointments.

Only a small number of women infected with HPV will develop cellular changes that need to be treated.

Self Help

Using condoms every time people have sex can help reduce the risk of HPV. Everyone should be aware, however, that condoms do not cover all of the genital skin, so they are not 100 percent effective in protecting against the spread of HPV. A person with genital warts should not have sex until the warts are removed. This might help reduce the risk of spreading HPV.

Here are some other ways of reducing the risk of HPV –

  • Women should have regular pelvic exams and Pap tests to look for abnormal changes in the cervix that might be pre-cancer.
  • Men and women should stop having sexual contact as soon as they know or think they have genital warts, and they should seek treatment immediately.
  • Get vaccinated with one of the three available HPV vaccines. Gardasil® and Gardasil9® protect against the development of cervical cancer and genital warts. They are approved for girls and women ages 9 to 26, as well as for boys and men ages 9-26 to protect against genital warts. The third vaccine, called Cervarix®, is approved for women only to protect against cervical cancer (does not protect against several of the HPV strains that cause warts).

It is best to get the vaccine before the start of sexual activity. The vaccine consists of a series of three shots, with the second shot coming two months after the first, and the third coming six months after the first. If people already have HPV, the vaccine does not treat or cure, but can still help protect against other types of HPV infections.

Alternative Treatment

Beta-carotene converted to Vitamin A when consumed empowers the body to clear HPV.

Folic acid is especially useful in the treatment of mild cervical dysplasia (CIN I). One study shows that high folate blood levels are linked to the prevention of mild cervical dysplasia and high-risk HPV 16.

Vitamin C, the ultimate immune booster, will exponentially increase your chances of curing HPV in a timely manner. One study showed that women with high intake of vitamin C had a reduction in the risk of cervical dysplasia.

Antioxidants can help cure various strains of HPV including ones that cause the development of warts. Because antioxidants fight free radicals, cancer-causing agents in the body, it’s vital that people consume foods high in antioxidants.

Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) is present in all members of the cruciferous vegetable family including cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and kale. Studies indicate I3C has the potential to prevent and even treat a number of common cancers, especially those that are estrogen related

Echinacea is a natural cure for hpv virus, also called as purple coneflower. This cure is a perennial prairie herb that can be used in the form of tea and tincture that provides outstanding results against warts. It has polysaccharides and phytosterols that improve white blood cells (WBC) to destroy this virus.

Goldenseal is a natural cure for hpv virus that is used along with Echinacea in removing the warts. This cure has the same effect in stimulating the immune system by increasing the white blood cells count. Goldenseal produces twisted stem called as rhizome used as a natural remedy. It has a substance, berberine that has the composition to kill the strains of microorganisms.

Curcurmin – The purified form of turmeric, Curcurmin is an anti-oxidant that acts effectively against hpv virus and protects the body’s DNA cells. It also has great effect in curing different forms of cervical cancer.

Pau d’Arco – The liquid extract of Pau d’Arco has the composition to fight against the action of hpv virus. This natural cure for hpv virus in the liquid extract form can be applied on the warts infected region and has the ability to shrink and make them to disappear.

Thuja leaf and its oil, has the anti-viral remedy to treat against genital warts caused by hpv virus infection. It stimulates the cells in the immune systems that are needed to kill and search the virus infected cells.

Astragalus acts as immune stimulator and anti-viral agent to fight against hpv virus. It initiates the p-53 gene that in turn invokes the production of interleukin-2. This substance kills the hpv virus and improves immunity against cancer.

Tea tree oil, a natural cure for hpv virus has the anti-viral and anti-microbial ability to reduce warts enormously. It is an internal and topical disinfectant that increases the immunity level in the body.

Garlic has a strong anti-microbial tendency and contains a substance called as Allicin. This content has the ability to destroy pathogens, which can be applied directly on to genital warts providing great relief.

Mushrooms such as Reishi and Shitake, is the natural cure for hpv virus infection. It has anti-viral activity to kill the effects of this virus that provides relief from genital warts.

 

Reference –

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancers-in-general/cancer-questions/what-is-the-hpv-virus

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