HPV or human papillomavirus is a viral infection that commonly causes skin or mucous membrane growths. It affects many different parts of the body including the genitals and throat. There are several high-risk kinds of HPV, including HPV strains that cause warts on the face, feet, hands, etc. Around 30 to 40 strains of HPV affect the genitals, including the scrotum, penis, cervix, vagina, and vulva, as well as the anus and rectum.
How can you get HPV?
Genital HPV spreads during anal sex, oral sex, and intercourse through skin-to-skin contact. As we highlighted above. You’ll get infected when your genitals, including your scrotum, penis, cervix, vagina, and vulva touch these same organs on an infected person. It’s also possible to spread it via hand to genital contacts, such as handjobs and fingering. However, this kind of transmission is very rare.
Human papillomavirus is highly contagious, largely because it is transmitted via skin-to-skin contact. You don’t have to exchange body fluids for you to contract the virus. Your partner can infect you, or you can infect them even if none of you ejaculates.
Symptoms of HPV
HPV that attacks the genitals often doesn’t come with any symptoms. When you do notice symptoms, the most common of them all is warts around the genitals. Warts will be cauliflower-like, rough lumps that grow on the skin. They may appear several days, months, or years after you have contracted the virus.
High-risk forms of human papillomavirus usually do not cause symptoms until they progress to cancer. Cervical cancer is one of the most common kinds of cancer associated with HPV. Women ages 30 to 65 are advised to continue having a Pap test every three years to check for cervical cancer. Other kinds of cancer are rarer and some of them include; vulvar cancer, vaginal cancer, penile cancer, and anal cancer.
There’s no treatment that can cure your body of HPV. However, there are some that will help remove visible warts on the genitals and the abnormal cells in the cervix. Treatments for such may include;
Cryosurgery: Destroying abnormal cells or freezing warts using liquid nitrogen.
Electrocautery: Burning genital warts off using electrical currents.
LEEP (Loop electrosurgical excision procedure): The use of special wire loops to remove abnormal cells and warts on the cervix.
Prescription cream: The application of medical cream directly to the area with warts to remove them. Some of the main ingredients in these creams include podofilox (Condylox®) and imiquimod (Aldara®).
Conization (Cold knife cone biopsy): This is the removal of cone-shaped pieces of cervical tissue that have abnormal cells.
Can You Prevent HPV?
The only way you can avoid HPV completely is to not have unprotected sex. However, for most people, the more realistic options include reducing the chances of getting the virus and preventing cervical cancer.
You can reduce the risk of contracting the virus even further by;
Getting the HPV Vaccine: One of the best ways you can protect yourself from contracting the virus is by getting the vaccine before you get sexually active. One of the most common vaccines is Gardasil9®. This vaccine prevents the HPV strains that cause genital warts and cervical cancer and is allowed for everybody from the ages of 9 to 45.
Get your child vaccinated. Children between the ages of 11 and 12 should be given 2 doses. The second dose should be given between 6 to 12 months after the first dose. Children who are above 15 years old require three doses. It’s very important to vaccinate your teen against HPV. If they don’t have the vaccine yet, talk to your doctor about it.
Practice safer sex: Dental dams and condoms are not as great at protecting you from HPV as they are at protecting you against more traditional STIs that are spread via vaginal fluid or semen.
Unfortunately, no treatment can cure HPV. However, the body’s immune system is very effective at battling the virus and getting rid of it. About 90% of most HPV infections clear up within about 12 to 24 months.
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