Sexually actively individuals all around the world have an 80% chance of experiencing ‘this’. We’re talking about HPV, a virus that can cause warts or lumps around the genitals, and even potentially life-threatening cancer. So it’s time to test yourself, how much do you know about the most common STI in the world?
What we should know about HPV
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). There are more than 150 varieties of HPV and some types of HPV can cause cancers of the cervix, vagina, vulva, and anus. You must be aware of this virus if you were or are currently sexually active or plan to be sexually active in the future.
Causes and Types
- The cause of HPV infection
Most cases of HPV infection are spread by having vaginal or anal intercourse. It can also be transmitted through oral sex or skin-to-skin contact between genitals.
- Symptoms by types of HPV
There are over 150 types of HPV known today but you do not necessarily have to know every one of them. Let’s learn about the common types of HPV based on risk level. We can find out the type of virus we have by getting an HPV test at the OB/GYN. Make sure to keep an eye out for what you need to check. When these symptoms develop you should be suspicious of HPV and visit the hospital.
- Symptoms of low-risk HPV (types 6 and 11)
- Warts around the vulva or genitals
- Warts around the anus
- Burning pain, itchiness, or discomfort around the genitals
- Symptoms of high-risk HPV (types 16 and 18)
- Warts inside the cervix or the lining of the vagina
- Warts inside the anus
- No symptoms
Most people infected with HPV are not aware that they are infected. It’s best to regularly get tested for cervical cancer or HPV even if you don’t have symptoms.
Prevention and Treatment
- Effective prevention
Unfortunately, there is currently no treatment for HPV. However, there is hope as effective vaccinations have been developed. For example, “Gardasil 9” was developed specifically to prevent more than 90% of HPV-related diseases. Getting vaccinated at appropriate times will increase the possibility of a happy sex life without the threat of HPV.
- Treatment by symptoms
Most symptoms of HPV infection heal on their own through the immune system.
- 60% of genital warts are known to disappear without any medical treatment. Otherwise, they have to be removed through cryotherapy or surgical procedures.
- If HPV leads to a malignant tumor additional excision, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy is needed.
- Lingering risks
The disappearance of HPV symptoms does not mean all risk factors have also vanished. Recurrence of HPV is common and it often resurfaces after a long period of latency. Women who were infected with HPV have a high risk of vulvar intraepithelial dysplasia, cervical dysplasia, cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, and anal cancer.
Regular testing and observation are needed depending on the history of HPV infection. Determine when the test will be needed by consulting a specialist and continue to take care of your body.
Misconceptions and Truth
💬 A disease caught by sexually promiscuous people.
HPV is generally transmitted by having intercourse. It’s best to have intercourse in a sanitary location and limit the number of partners for prevention. But HPV is a very common disease that any sexually active person can develop. It is an STI that can infect anyone, as most do not have any symptoms and may not even realize they’re infected. It’s not appropriate to consider the cause to be due to “promiscuous behavior.”
💬 HPV infection always leads to cancer.
No, this is not the case. 70% of HPV naturally goes away on it’s own within 1 year after onset and 90% within 2 years. But if HPV is not cured by the immune system and infection continues, there is a possibility of it progressing into cervical cancer. Eliminate the blind fear! Remember that HPV vaccines can be highly effective in preventing cervical cancer!
💬 Only women need the HPV vaccine.
HPV is not a disease that only infects women. If you become a carrier, you can transmit the disease to others and HPV can infect not only women but also men. The vaccine is recommended for everyone, regardless of gender. It is proven to reduce the incidence of genital warts in men and women, and cervical cancer for women.
- HPV is an extremely common STI.
- Actively prevent and manage HPV; most HPV can go away on its own but when it does not go away, it can cause fatal diseases such as cancer.