Read below as we cover the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, and HOW of HPV and its complications.
HPV can affect both men and women alike. The rising rates of HPV have been more of a concern for the anatomically female population due to the severe consequence of cervical cancer, 80% of which have been attributed to an HPV infection.
Severe cancer-linked complications in men are rarer than that of women, which is why prevention and treatment have been heavily focused on women.
Most men have no symptoms, so the diagnosis of HPV is quite difficult. It can only be made when external genital warts are seen. Grade school boys are now being included in a school-based mandate to vaccinate against HPV to decrease transmission.
HPV causes a number of lower risk and higher risk complications to the body. These include:
- Common warts
- Genital warts
- Plantar warts
- Facial warts
- Pre-cancerous lesions of cervix, anus, penis, vulva, or uterus
- Cervical cancer
- Penile carcinoma
The diseases caused by HPV may lead to certain secondary conditions or disorders. These are termed HPV complications.
Most HPV viruses do not cause any serious complications, as the infections are self-limiting and regress spontaneously within a period of 1 to 2 years in about 90 percent of patients. Only a small number of people suffer from persistent HPV infections and have an increased risk of developing cancer.
HPV complications include:
Cancer: Persistent HPV infections caused by high-risk types, mainly type 16 and 18, may progress into malignancies.
- Cervical Carcinoma (the most common complication associated with malignancies)
- Genital Carcinoma
- Vulvar Carcinoma
- Anal Carcinoma
- Penile Carcinoma (rare cancer associated with HPV)
Genital warts in the urinary tract may become enlarged leading to difficulties in urination. In pregnancy, warts on the vaginal wall may lead to obstruction during vaginal delivery. Genital warts may become ulcers or open sores. Ulcers can lead to infections of the rectum, anus, urethra, and even mouth or throat.
Warts in the throat, or laryngeal papillomatosis can occur in newborns, from delivery when born to through vaginal delivery to women with warts.
This rare condition requires urgent attention.
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HPV has an estimated incubation period from HPV infection to genital wart development anywhere from 2 weeks to 8 months. The majority of genital warts appear 2 to 3 months after infection.
Most people clear an HPV infection naturally with a healthy immune system in 1 to 2 years. Some people may stay infected for years. It will take about 10 to 30 years from the time of infection to see a cancerous tumor form.
It is important to get routine checkups and pap tests to stop the cervical cell changes in their path before they progress further into cancer.
Complications most likely arise in the genital, anal, and oral areas of both men and women. HPV mostly affects a woman’s cervix, causing cervical dysplasia and abnormal cell changes that may lead to cancer if untreated.
There are over 150 different known strains of HPV. Some of these are high risk and some are low risk. About 14 of these strains are specifically linked to higher rates of cancer and are termed “high risk”.
HPV 6 and 11 cause 90% of genital warts linked to HPV, but are considered “low risk” strains because they rarely develop into cancer.
HPV 16 and 18 cause an estimated 70% of all cervical cancers. These two strains are widely known as the highest risk strains of HPV.
HPV is easily spread from sexual skin-to-skin contact with a partner who has HPV. You can get it when your vulva, vagina, cervix, penis, or anus touches someone else’s affected area, genitals, mouth, or throat. This can occur during sex, including oral and anal sex.
It can spread even if there is no ejaculation. It is possible that open-mouthed kissing with a partner who has an oral HPV infection may cause transmission, but the jury is still out on that one.
If you’re concerned about HPV, you can learn more about HPV testing in our in-depth article.
If you want a way to respond naturally to HPV, why not check out our product, Papillex?