The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the world. So much so, that the vast majority of sexually active men and women will contract it at some point during their lives. In Part 1,
we looked at the prevalence of HPV and how it can lead to cancer. Let’s look at the answers to some more frequently asked questions about HPV:
Does HPV Always Cause Problems?
No. The vast majority of HPV cases are a result of low-risk strains and do not cause lasting health problems, but certain strains of the virus can cause genital warts or cancer so it is important to get regular check-ups and pap smears to detect any abnormal developments.
Which Strains of HPV Are Particularly High Risk?
Strains 6 and 11 are responsible for over 90% of cases of HPV-related genital warts. Approximately 70% of HPV-related cancer
cases are caused by strain 16 and strain 18. About 95% of anal cancer are caused by HPV (strain 16). There are approximately 26,900 cases
of cancer are caused by HPV annually.
What Are the Symptoms of HPV-related Genital Warts?
If you spontaneously develop warts in your genital area, HPV (or herpes) is likely responsible. Genital warts associated with HPV
can be pink or reddish or skin colored and can be flat, raised or clustered together. They can develop on the thigh, groin, penis, cervix, vagina or anus. HPV-related genital warts don’t necessarily make their presence known right away. They may show up weeks, months or even years after initial exposure, making the time and source from which you contracted HPV difficult to identify.
How is HPV Contracted?
HPV can be spread through
vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected person and can be passed from a person who has no visible signs or symptoms of an infection. You may even have HPV if you’ve only been sexually active with one person (who has had previous sexual partners).
How Can HPV Be Prevented?
Because HPV is so widespread, it is difficult to protect yourself completely against contracting it, however there are measures you can take to minimize your chances of developing high-risk types of HPV. Some of which include:
- Get vaccinated – The CDC recommends 11-12 year-olds get two HPV vaccines to protect against high-risk HPV in the future. Young men and women who haven’t been vaccinated should do so as well. Check out the CDC recommendations of who should and should not be vaccinated.
- People who are sexually active should use a condom (properly) each time they have vaginal or anal sex, as well as using condoms or dental dams for oral sex.
- You can decrease your chances of contracting it significantly by having mutually monogamous sex (neither you or your partner have other sexual partners besides each other).
That concludes our look at the need-to-know facts about HPV. Thanks for visiting EMC!