Human papilloma virus (HPV) can appear just about anywhere on the body. The most common locations are mouth, anus and genitals where moist mucous membranes exist. Some common symptoms are warts, small, big, white, beige or brown skin growths and even several different types of cancer. There are more than 100 different types of HPV all with their own area to invade. Some cause the small, painless, rough-surfaced warts found on the fingers and face. Others cause the larger, more painful and flatter warts that grow on the soles of the feet. More than 25 different types of HPV can infect the skin covering the sex organs, cervix and opening of the anus. Genital HPV infections are very common and up to 80 percent of sexually active adults will get an HPV infection of the genital area at some point in their lives. In most cases, these infections do not cause symptoms, but in a small number of women, they cause changes in the cervix that can become cancerous if not treated. They may also cause genital warts which affect about 1 percent of sexually active people. HPV is also linked to cancer of the penis, vulva, anus and vagina.
HPV is spread through sexual contact. Most infected people have no symptoms and are unaware they are infected and can unintentionally transmit the virus to a sex partner. Pregnant woman rarely pass HPV to her baby during vaginal delivery. Most people who become infected with HPV have no symptoms but some do get the visible warts or have the precancerous changes in the cervix, vulva, anus or penis. Most HPV infections don’t cause any symptoms and eventually go away as the body’s own defense system clears the virus. Women with temporary HPV infections may develop mild Pap test abnormalities that go away with time. Some types of HPV are considered to be high-risk types and can lead to some cancers, such as cervical cancer and cancer of the vulva and the vagina. Other lower-risk types of HPV lead to genital warts. They’re called low-risk because They’re unlikely to cause cancer. The only sure protection against HPV infection is lifelong relationship with an uninfected partner. Other ways to protect your self is the use of condoms and other barrier methods such as dental dams. However, a new vaccine called Gardasil can now protect women from certain types of HPV. This vaccine was licensed in 2006 and is proven to protect against 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts caused by HPV. There is no vaccine for men yet. If infected with HPV there are some treatments available once it has progressed to warts. There are over the counter ointments, lotions and plaster available to help eliminate or slow the growth of the warts. If the over the counter treatments are unsuccessful you can freeze the warts or cauterize them using electricity. In some cases the application of strong medications such as acids or podophyllum, which is a poison that comes from a plant are necessary.
The outlook varies.
Without treatment about 1/2 of common warts disappear on their own within 6 to 12 months. Others may dissolve when an over the counter treatment is used for several weeks or months. Out of all the office treatments, surgical removal of the wart gives the best results because the wart is cut away in one doctor’s visit. Other forms of treatment require several office visits like freezing or cauterizing. After a wart has been removed, there is no guarantee that it will not come back because it is difficult to be certain that HPV infection has been eliminated from the deeper layers of the infected skin. Some stubborn warts require several rounds of treatment before they go away for good. There is an effective vaccine available to prevent being infected with certain strains of HPV. Because HPV is frequently acquired within a few years of the start of sexual activity and because HPV more frequently affects the young children’s cervixes, the most effective use of this vaccine is in young girls between the age of 10–12. Pediatricians and others who care for this population must acknowledge the value of administering this vaccine prior to the start of sexual activity and prepare to educate families of the availability and efficacy of HPV vaccines.