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Human Papillomavirus Infection

What is Human Papillomavirus Infection

Human Papillomavirus Infection
Warts of Human Papillomavirus Infection

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually transmitted infection that can cause genital warts and cervical cancer. It is caused by a group of viruses that can infect the skin and mucous membranes of the genitals, anus, and mouth. The virus is spread through skin-to-skin contact, usually during sexual activity. There are more than 100 types of HPV, and not all of them cause cancer or warts. Some types of HPV can cause cervical cancer, while others can cause genital warts. HPV can also cause other types of cancer, such as head and neck (back of the throat known as oropharyngeal cancer) cancer, anal cancer, and penile cancer. Most people with HPV do not have any symptoms, and the infection goes away on its own. However, some people may develop warts or cancer. There is a vaccine that can protect against the most common types of HPV that cause cervical cancer and genital warts. It is recommended for both boys and girls starting at age 11 or 12. Regular cervical cancer screenings are also important for women to detect any changes in the cervix caused by HPV.

Symptoms of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection

Most MPV infections get better on their own by the natural immunity of the body before the development of warts. However, when warts develop, they vary in appearance depending on the type of virus causing the infection. There are more than 40 types of HPV viruses, each type appears with varying symptoms and signs.

  1. Common Warts:  There are more than 100 different types of HPV, but only a few are known to cause warts. These include HPV types 6 and 11, which are responsible for about 90% of all genital warts. Warts can appear anywhere on the body but are most commonly found on the genital area, hands and feet. They can be small, raised, and flesh-coloured, or larger and cauliflower-like.
  2. Genital warts: In women, HPV can cause warts on or around the vulva, vagina, pelvic region or around anus. While in men, they appear on the penis, scrotum and around the anus. These warts appear as flat lesions, small cauliflower-like bumps or tiny stemlike protrusions. Genital warts can be treated with topical creams, cryotherapy (freezing), or surgical removal. However, they can recur after treatment. There is no treatment for HPV itself, but the body’s immune system can clear the infection in most cases.
  3. Planter Warts: Plantar warts are a type of wart that develops on the soles of the feet, typically in areas of pressure and friction. They are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) and can be spread by direct contact or by walking barefoot in areas where the virus is present. Plantar warts are often small, rough, and hard, and may have tiny black dots in the center. They can cause pain and discomfort when walking or standing. Treatment options include topical medications, cryotherapy, and surgical removal. It is important to maintain good foot hygiene and avoid walking barefoot in public areas to prevent the spread of plantar warts.
  4. Flat Warts: Flat warts, also known as plane warts, are caused by an infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV). These types of HPV are called HPV 3, 10, 28, and 49.Flat warts are typically found on the face, legs, and hands. They are small, flat-topped, and have a slightly rough surface. They are usually skin-coloured or slightly darker and can appear in clusters.
  5. Vaginal bleeding: HPV can cause abnormal vaginal bleeding, which can be a symptom of cervical cancer.
  6. Pain during intercourse: HPV can cause pain during intercourse, which can be a symptom of cervical cancer.
  7. Fatigue: HPV can cause fatigue, which can be a symptom of cervical cancer.

Causes of Human Papillomavirus

Origin of HPV: The origin of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is not well understood. It is believed to have evolved from a virus that infected animals, possibly primates, and then crossed over to humans. The first evidence of HPV in humans dates back to ancient civilizations, where drawings and writings suggest that the virus has been present in humans for thousands of years. The virus is thought to have spread through human populations through sexual contact and other forms of close contacts, such as skin-to-skin contact. Today, it is estimated that over 200 different types of HPV exist, with some causing warts and others leading to various forms of cancer.

Transmissions of HPV Infection: The HPV infection is contagious and can travel from an infected individual to an uninfected person. The virus can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, especially sexual contact. Genital HPV infections are contracted through sexual contact, anal sex and other skin-to-skin contact in the genital region. Mouth-to-genital sex can cause oral or upper respiratory lesions.

The infected pregnant women can also transmit the genital MPV infection to their babies during their birth. Rarely the infection can cause non-cancerous warts in the baby’s larynx (voice box). MPV warts are highly contagious and can easily transfer by simple skin touching. Warts can also spread when someone touches something that already touched a wart. Some infected people do not show MPV symptoms like warts, rashes and bumps. They still can be carriers of the infection. Therefore, you can, unknowingly contract the infection, even if your partner does not have any symptoms.

Risk Factors of Human Papillomavirus Infection

Several factors can increase the risk of having an infection with Human Papillomavirus. These factors include;

1. Having Multiple Sex Partners: Having multiple sexual partners increases the risk of contracting HPV (human papillomavirus) infection. This is because HPV is a sexually transmitted infection and the more sexual partners a person has, the greater the chance of being exposed to the virus. Additionally, certain types of sexual activity, such as unprotected intercourse, can increase the risk of HPV infection. It’s important to practice safe sex, get regular check-ups and get vaccinated to decrease the risk of HPV infection.

2. Age Factor: Common warts occur mostly in children. Genital warts occur most often in adolescents and young adults. The risk of HPV infection increases with age, as the likelihood of exposure to the virus increases over time. However, certain age groups may be at higher risk for HPV infection. Young people who are sexually active are at a higher risk of HPV infection, as the virus is primarily spread through sexual contact. Additionally, older adults may also be at a higher risk of HPV infection due to a weakened immune system. It is important for people of all ages to practice safe sex and to consider getting vaccinated against HPV to reduce the risk of infection.

3. Compromised Immune system: Individuals with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy, may have an increased risk of HPV infection. This is because a weakened immune system may have difficulty fighting off the virus. It’s also important for these individuals to get regular screenings and vaccinations if they’re eligible.

4. Damaged Skin: Damaged skin can increase the risk of HPV infection. When the skin is damaged, it can create small cuts, scrapes, or abrasions that can serve as entry points for the virus. Additionally, damaged skin can also be more susceptible to infection as it may have a harder time healing and fighting off any potential pathogens. It is important to take care of any cuts or scrapes on the skin to reduce the risk of HPV infection.

7. Common Bodily Contact: Skin contact, such as touching or rubbing against another person’s skin, can increase the risk of HPV infection. HPV is a highly contagious virus that is spread through direct skin-to-skin contact, including sexual contact. The virus can also be spread through contact with infected areas of the skin, such as warts or other lesions.

Complications of Human Papillomavirus Infection

  1. Cervical cancer: HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer, and women with HPV infections are at a higher risk of developing this type of cancer. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide, and it is caused by certain types of HPV. The HPV types that cause cervical cancer are known as high-risk HPV. The most common high-risk types of HPV are HPV 16 and 18, which together cause about 70% of cervical cancer cases.
  2. Anal cancer: Anal cancer caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is a type of cancer that develops in the anus and rectum. HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that can cause abnormal cell growth in the anus and rectum. These abnormal cells can eventually develop into cancer if left untreated. Risk factors for anal cancer caused by HPV infection include having multiple sexual partners, engaging in anal intercourse, a weakened immune system, and a history of other sexually transmitted infections. Symptoms of anal cancer may include bleeding, pain, and changes in bowel habits.
  3. Head and neck cancer: Head and neck cancer caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is a type of cancer that develops in the head and neck region, including the mouth, back of the throat (oropharyngeal cancer), and larynx (voice box). It is caused by certain strains of HPV, specifically HPV-16 and HPV-18..
  4. Respiratory problems: HPV can cause respiratory problems:
    • Laryngeal papillomatosis: This is a condition where warts (papillomas) form on the vocal cords and can cause hoarseness, difficulty speaking, and breathing problems.
    • Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis (RRP): This is a rare condition where warts grow in the upper airway, including the larynx, trachea, and bronchi. It can cause difficulty breathing, coughing, and recurrent infections.
    • HPV-associated lung cancer: Studies have shown that HPV infection can increase the risk of lung cancer, particularly in people who smoke or have a history of smoking.
    • Sinonasal papillomas: These are warts that form in the nasal passages and sinuses, which can cause nasal congestion, difficulty breathing, and recurrent infections.
  5. Infertility: In rare cases, it can also cause infertility in women. HPV can cause changes in the cervical cells, leading to the development of cervical dysplasia, which is a precancerous condition. If left untreated, it can progress to cervical cancer, which can damage the cervix and make it difficult for a woman to conceive.

Diagnosis of Human Papillomavirus Infection

Your healthcare provider can be able to diagnose the infection simply by examining warts, but if fails to do so, there are some specific tests, that can detect the infection with accuracy. These tests include;

  1. Acetic Acid Tests: Acetic acid is found in vinegar. If we apply some drops of vinegar to warts, they turn white. This test is conducted in case of invisible genital warts. If a doctor is unable to notice the presence of genital warts, this test would be helpful.
  2. Pap Test: The Pap test (or Pap smear) is a screening test for cervical cancer that can also detect changes in cervical cells that may be caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. During the test, cells are collected from the cervix and examined under a microscope for any abnormal changes. If abnormal cells are found, further testing may be needed to determine if the changes are caused by HPV or if they have developed into cervical cancer. The HPV test is different from the Pap test, HPV test is used to detect the presence of high-risk HPV, the main cause of cervical cancer.
  3. HPV DNA Test: A DNA test for HPV (human papillomavirus) can be used to diagnose an active infection. This test uses a sample of cervical cells or a swab from the genitals to detect the presence of HPV DNA. The test can identify specific types of HPV, including those that are known to cause cervical cancer. It is typically done as part of routine screening for cervical cancer or as part of a follow-up test after abnormal cervical cells have been detected. The results of the test can help healthcare providers determine the best course of treatment for the individual.

It’s important to note that these tests are used to diagnose cervical cancer caused by HPV and not the infection itself. A Pap test, HPV DNA test, or VIA can be used to screen for HPV in the cervix, but other methods such as PCR or viral culture tests are also used to diagnose HPV in other parts of the body.

Viral Culture Test:

A viral culture test is a laboratory technique used to diagnose human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The test involves collecting a sample of cells from the affected area, usually through a swab or a biopsy, and then culturing them in a laboratory dish. The cells are then observed for the presence of the HPV virus.

The test is typically used to diagnose cervical, anal, and genital warts, as well as precancerous and cancerous growths caused by HPV. It can also be used to determine the type of HPV responsible for the infection, as certain types are more likely to cause cancer than others.

The viral culture test is considered a reliable method for diagnosing HPV infection, but it can take several days to get results. In addition, it is not always possible to culture the virus from all samples, which can lead to false negative results.

Prevention from HPV infection

  1. Vaccination: The HPV vaccine is available for both males and females and can prevent infection from the most common strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer and other types of HPV-related cancers.
  2. Condom use: Using condoms during sexual activity can decrease the risk of HPV infection.
  3. Limit sexual partners: Having fewer sexual partners reduces the risk of HPV infection.
  4. Regular pap tests: Regular pap tests can detect cervical cancer early, allowing for prompt treatment and preventing the spread of HPV.
  5. Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption: Both smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk of HPV-related cancers.
  6. Practice safe oral sex: Using dental dams or condoms during oral sex can decrease the risk of HPV infection in the throat and mouth.
  7. Practice good hygiene: Washing hands and genitals regularly and keeping them clean can reduce the risk of HPV infection.
  8. Get a skin checkup: Regular skin checkups can help detect and prevent HPV-related skin cancers.
  9. Covering Feet in case of Plantar Warts: To reduce the risk of contracting HPV infections that cause plantar warts, wear shoes or sandals in public pools and locker rooms.
  10. Limit the spread of warts to other parts of body: It’s difficult to prevent HPV infections that cause common warts. If you have a common wart, you can prevent the spread of the infection and formation of new warts by not picking at a wart and not biting your nails.

It’s important to note that no single method can fully protect against HPV infection, so using multiple methods is recommended. Also, it’s essential to consult a doctor for any HPV-related concerns.

Treatment of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection

There is no specific treatment for HPV infection. Warts can go away on their own, as well the possibility of their recurrence still exists on the same part of the body. In spite of having no cure, HPV infection can be treated merely to reduce its symptoms and prevent complications.

Removal of Warts


Salicylic acid. Over-the-counter treatments that contain salicylic acid work by removing layers of a wart a little at a time. For use on common warts, salicylic acid can cause skin irritation and isn’t for use on your face.

Imiquimod. This prescription cream might enhance your immune system’s ability to fight HPV. Common side effects include redness and swelling at the application site.

Podofilox. Another topical prescription, podofilox works by destroying genital wart tissue. Podofilox may cause burning and itching where it’s applied.

Trichloroacetic acid. This chemical treatment burns off warts on the palms, soles and genitals. It might cause local irritation.

Surgical Removal:

In case, if the medication does not work, your doctor may remove warts by surgical method. Surgical removal of HPV warts involves cutting or burning off warts using a scalpel, laser, or electrocautery. This is typically done in a doctor’s office or clinic and can be done under local anaesthesia. Depending on the size and location of warts, multiple treatments may be necessary. After the warts are removed, it is important to keep the area clean and dry to help prevent infection and promote healing.

Treatment of Infected Cervix

The treatment of HPV-infected cervix depends on the type of HPV infection and the severity of the cervical changes.

  • In cases of low-grade cervical changes, a woman may be closely monitored with regular Pap tests and colposcopies to ensure that the changes do not progress.
  • In cases of high-grade cervical changes, a woman may need to undergo a procedure to remove the affected tissue, such as a LEEP (loop electrosurgical excision procedure) or a cone biopsy.
  • For women with cervical cancer, treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy.
  • HPV vaccines, such as Gardasil and Cervarix, can also be given to prevent future HPV infections and cervical cancer.

It is important to note that HPV infection is a common and usually benign condition, but regular cervical cancer screenings are crucial to detect any potential issues early on. It is crucial to speak with a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Treatment of Cancers

Human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause various types of cancer, including cervical, vaginal, vulvar, anal, and oropharyngeal (throat) cancer. Treatment for HPV-related cancers varies depending on the type and stage of cancer. Some common treatments include:

  1. Surgery: This involves removing the cancerous tissue through various surgical methods such as a lumpectomy, mastectomy, or hysterectomy.
  2. Radiation therapy: This uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. It can be delivered externally or internally (brachytherapy).
  3. Chemotherapy: This uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It can be used as a standalone treatment or in combination with other therapies.
  4. Immunotherapy: This uses drugs to boost the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells.
  5. Targeted therapy: This uses drugs to target specific molecules in cancer cells that help them grow and spread.

HPV Vaccine

The HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine is a series of shots that protect against certain types of HPV that can lead to cancer and other health problems. The vaccine is recommended for both males and females and is typically given to individuals between the ages of 9 and 26. The vaccine is most effective when given before an individual becomes sexually active, but it can still provide some protection even if given later. The vaccine is usually given in a series of two or three shots, depending on the specific type of vaccine. The HPV vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective in preventing HPV infections, and it is recommended by government and non-profit organisations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the HPV vaccine for all adolescents between the ages of 11 and 12. The vaccine can also be given starting at age 9 and up to age 26 for those who did not receive the vaccine at the recommended age. The vaccine is recommended for both males and females to help prevent HPV-related cancers and other diseases. The CDC also recommends that certain groups of adults may also benefit from the vaccine, such as men who have sex with men, people with weakened immune systems, and people who have certain types of cancer. It is important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine if the HPV vaccine is appropriate for an individual.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended the use of HPV vaccines, such as Gardasil and Cervarix, as a preventative measure against HPV infection and the development of cervical cancer. The vaccines are recommended for both males and females, with the recommended age for vaccination starting at age 11 or 12, but they can be given as early as age 9. The vaccines are also recommended for adults up to age 26 who have not yet received the vaccine. It is important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the appropriate vaccination schedule.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for girls aged 9-14 years old as part of a comprehensive approach to cervical cancer prevention. The vaccine is also recommended for boys and young men aged 9-26 years old to protect against HPV-related diseases such as genital warts and anal cancer. The WHO recommends the use of bivalent (2-valent), quadrivalent (4-valent), or nonavalent (9-valent) HPV vaccines.