HPV is the shortened form of Human Papilloma Virus that causes warts. There are over 100s of varieties of HPV but not all of them are harmful. Only certain strains cause infection and warts (on the genitals and throat). There are some HPV that cause planter warts on your feet and some other types causes warts on the face. Genital warts are commonly seen in young adults or adolescents when they try to explore sex on different people. HPV infection can be cured by effective medications and surgical procedure.
Types of warts caused by HPV :
As said earlier, more than hundreds of strains of HPV exist and only some of them are responsible for causing infection. Our body is tuned to fight HPV infection through strong immune system. Warts differ in size and shape according to the type of virus that has caused it.
- Genital Warts :
This type of HPV infection looks like tiny cauliflower like lesions or bumps on your genitals. It occurs both in men (on the tip of penis or scrotum) and women (on the vulva or near the anus). Genital warts can increase the risk of getting anal cancer.
- Common Warts :
This type of warts is seen in the form of raised lesions and they mostly occur on the hands and elbows. They do not cause any discomfort or pain but a nuisance for cosmetic purpose. They exist as rough tiny structures on the body.
- Plantar Warts :
They commonly occur on the feet or on the heels. It develops due to increased pressure on the heels or feet while wearing tight shoes. It may cause pain.
- Flat Warts :
They occur on your face and neck areas in the form of flat raised lesions. Often it is seen in children and young adults.
HPV infection is caused by human papillomavirus which enters into your body through a small cut or injury. Often it gets transmitted by skin contact when a person has sex with infected person. It spreads through direct skin contact of genital area and can infect the oral cavity while having oral sex. In rare cases the mother can transmit HPV infection to the fetus which has to be treated.
Risk Factors :
- HPV infection can occur to anyone, irrespective of age and sex.
- Women/men having multiple sex partners and those employed as sex workers are likely to get HPV.
- Genital warts are largely seen in young adults when they have unsafe sex.
- Individuals with weakened immunity are at high risk of getting HPV infection.
- Those with frequent cuts or injury are likely to get common warts.
- Using public swimming pools frequently can increase the risk of developing warts.
- In rare cases HPV infection can affect the respiratory system forming lesions on the tonsils and larynx area.
- Genital warts can cause anal cancer and cervical cancer.
Many times your doctor can diagnose warts or HPV infection by physical exam. In some cases he may apply acetic acid solution on the area to detect tiny warts. Vinegar solution may also be applied on the infected area to detect warts. Pap smear test is to be done regularly for women to detect any abnormal developments in the vagina or cervix region. Some doctors perform DNA test also.
Treatment for HPV infection depends on the size and location of the warts. Often warts fade away on its own as your immune system will destroy them. Medications like salicylic acid can be applied directly on the warts which would wither and fall off. Imiquimod like Aldara is the prescribed lotion for fighting HPV infection. Condylox can be effective to treat genital warts. For removing larger warts your doctor may prefer surgical methods like cryotherapy or electrocautering method. Laser assisted surgery is largely used for removing warts.
- Once warts develop don’t prick it or bite it since it may worsen the condition.
- You can prevent plantar warts on the feet by wearing right shoes.
- Genital warts can be avoided by having limited sex partners and practicing safe sex.
- Gardasil vaccine is available for preventing some strains of HPV. Cervarix is used for preventing cervical cancer.