HPV or human papilloma virus is the most common sexually transmitted infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are over 100 strains of HPV, and most of these are passed through sexual contact, which is why regular checkup from an expert like Sexologist in Islamabad is important. At some point in their life, all sexually active individuals will get this virus, however, in most it will remain asymptomatic.
What are the symptoms of HPV?
HPV has many strains, and most do not even cause any symptoms. In most cases, HPV goes away on its and own without causing any health problem.
There are 30 subtypes of HPV that affect the genitalia, and the vagina, cervix, penis, scrotum, rectum and anus. In these regions, HPV can cause genital warts, which may appear weeks, or even years after acquiring the virus. The serious strains of HPV, however, are associated with cancers, including cervical cancer, penile cancer, and anal cancer.
In their lifetime, each sexually active man and woman will get HPV of at least one type.
HPV and cervical cancer
One of the risk factors of cervical cancer is infection with HPV. While most cases of HPV infection clear up on their own, some can develop into pre-cancerous and later cancerous lesions of the cervix. In women with normal immune system, cervical cancer secondary to HPV can take 15 to 20 years to develop, which is why regular pap smears and examinations are beneficial.
The updated guidelines from US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommend the first pap smear at the age of 21 for both sexually active and non-sexually active women. Later, till the age of 29 years, women should have pap smear every three years.
From the age of 30 to 65, women can either get a pap smear every three years, or an HPV test every five years. Alternatively, they can get co-tested i.e. get both pap smear and HPV test every five years.
In women with abnormal pap smear, a follow-up procedure like colposcopy or HPV testing becomes mandatory.
Treatment options for HPV
While most cases of HPV go away on their own, prescription medication can become necessary in certain cases like genital warts. Your healthcare provider can also call you in for repeat testing every few years if HPV infection persists.
Treatment for genital warts includes cryotherapy—freezing of the warts with liquid nitrogen, or burning of the warts with electric current. Alternatively, prescription medication constitutive of antivirals help to get rid of the warts.
For cancers secondary to HPV, treatment comprises of radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery for precancerous lesion. Sometimes, all three become necessary, especially in case of large tumor. The kind of treatment needed is tailored based on the grading, and staging of the tumor.
How to prevent HPV?
Since HPV is a sexually transmitted virus, precautions such as safe sex practices, use of condoms and HPV vaccine, can help in preventing serious illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends HPV vaccine for teenage boys and girls, between the ages of 11 and 12, and young adults up to 26 years of age. To prevent complications associated with HPV, vaccination can play a major role, along with regular check-ups, pap smears and screenings by a professional like Best Sexologist in Lahore.