Human Papillomavirus Overview

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus group containing over 100 strains and types, most of which are non-lethal and non-symptomatic.

However, there are some high-risk HPV types with the potential to cause various types of cancers, such as cervical cancer and penile cancer. The two most dangerous HPV types to watch for are HPV-16 and HPV-18 because they cause the highest rate of cancer cases.

Most sexually active adults worldwide will contract an HPV infection one or more times throughout their lives. Many do not even realize they have an HPV infection because they never experience symptoms. As a result, HPV-infected people can unknowingly infect others, some of whom may experience adverse side effects.

HPV transmissions usually happen from intimate skin-to-skin contact with an infected person during anal, vaginal, or oral sex. That is why you need to take precautions by limiting your number of sexual partners and practicing safe sex as often as possible. These tips can reduce your risk of contracting HPV and HPV-related symptoms significantly.

What are the Symptoms of HPV?

 Around 60 HPV types can cause genital warts and lesions on the skin of your hands, feet, and genitals. These symptoms will not usually cause a threat to your life, but they can become embarrassing and uncomfortable to live with for an extended period.

Another 40 HPV types are transmitted during intimacy and sexual intercourse, but only a few can lead to severe conditions like cervical cancer. HPV-16 and HPV-18 are the two HPV types you need to be concerned about the most, whether you are a man or woman. HPV-infected women have a greater chance of developing cervical cancer if they have contacted HPV-16 or HPV-18. Men and women are also susceptible to throat and oral cancers from high-risk HPV infections.

Fortunately, most HPV-infected people survive their infections without developing cancer because their immune systems are strong enough to eradicate the viruses before they do any damage. But if a high-risk HPV type stays in the body for longer than two years, that is when it can lead to dangerous cancers like cervical cancer.

The Importance of HPV Vaccinations

There is no medical cure for an HPV infection. Once you have the virus, your immune system is the only hope of getting rid of it. Other than that, it would be best to take preventative measures to avoid the threat of HPV altogether. There are supplements you can take to build your immune system and there are some HPV supplements that will provide your system with essential nutrients.  Perhaps one of the best preventative measures is getting vaccinated.

The HPV vaccine offers protection from nine high-risk HPV types:

  • HPV Type 6
  • HPV Type 33
  • HPV Type 45
  • HPV Type 11
  • HPV Type 16
  • HPV Type 18
  • HPV Type 52
  • HPV Type 31
  • HPV Type 58

If you were to contract one of these HPV types after receiving the HPV vaccine, you would most likely not experience severe health issues like cancer or warts.

Health experts now recommend the HPV vaccine for males and females starting at nine years old. They believe young people should get vaccinated before entering their sexually active years because it will offer the greatest protection against high-risk HPV types.

The HPV vaccine is as safe as getting any other vaccination. The worst side effects are minor things like temporary swelling, redness, and soreness at the injection site. But those symptoms will subside within a day or so.

Remember to Get Tested for HPV

Men and women are encouraged to schedule regular appointments with their doctors to look for signs of HPV infections or HPV-related cancers. Women are highly recommended to regularly undergo pap smears (cervical cancer screenings) with a gynecologist to check for abnormal cervical cell growth. The typical testing frequency is once every two or three years.

Your primary care physician or gynecologist will recommend the frequency at which you should undergo HPV and pap testing.