Human papilloma Virus infection is a sexually transmitted infection. Most of the infected people do not show any symptoms, but they can infect others. Human Papillomavirus is the group of virus that affects the skin and the mucous membrane that lines our body.
Almost all sexually active men and women at some point get infected with HPV. Symptoms of HPV may even develop years after you had sex with an infected person. HPV may also spread by skin to skin contact or from mother to the baby during pregnancy, labor or nursing.
HPV are about 40 types. In most of the cases of HPV infection, it goes away on its own without causing any serious health problems, but if it does not go away it may cause genital warts and cancer.
Genital warts- They may be small or big, flat, raised or cauliflower shaped. In the genital areas, warts are in the form of a bump or group bumps. Genital warts can be very uncomfortable and may cause emotional stress, however, they are not life- threatening.
Cancer- HPV may cause cervical cancers, Oropharyngeal cancer. Cancer of anus and penis. A person may develop cancer years after being infected by HPV. HPV is the most common cause of cervical cancer in women.
HPV has no treatment, but health problems like warts, cervical precancer, and other cancers can be treated if diagnosed early. If untreated at right time warts may increase in size and number and cancer may lead to death.
HPV and its health related problems can be avoided by proper vaccination. It is better to get vaccinated before becoming sexually active and exposed to HPV. HPV vaccination is recommended for teenagers 11 to 12 years old. Women who are sexually active may also be vaccinated, but they are less benefited as they may have already been exposed to HPV infection. These vaccines are not recommended for pregnant women
However, there is no specific test to know the HPV status of a person, but routine HPV DNA test is done to identify the high-risk form of HPV. Pap smear and HPV testing should be done combined, in women between 30 to 65 years in every 5 years.
3 reasons to vaccinate against HPV
- HPV vaccines target HPV types that commonly cause cervical cancer and some other cancer, such as oropharyngeal cancer and cancer of the anus. 2 of these vaccines protect against HPV types that cause genital warts.
- Research shows that once vaccinated individual is protected from infections for long. Also, there is no evidence of protection getting weaken over time.
- All three vaccines are totally safe and have been licensed by the Food and Drug Administration . Side effects reported for these vaccines includes mild pain, fever, dizziness, and nausea.
Remember HPV vaccines do not protect against all HPV types that may cause cancer. It is better that a woman after 21 years age may have routine Pap smear test to rule out or early detection of pre-cancer to prevent invasive cervical cancer.