Am I at risk from high-risk HPV?

November 12, 2012

Am I at risk from high-risk HPV?

People may not know if they have HPV although some cases may present with genital warts.

HPV stands for human papillomavirus which causes genital warts and is a sexually transmitted disease.

What is the difference between high-risk HPV and low risk HPV?

A patient who experiences persistent bouts of high-risk HPV ,which is difficult to get rid of, is also at higher risk of contracting cervical cancer – high risk HPV is known to cause the cell changes which may lead to this type of cancer. Low risk HPV does not produce these cell changes. Research has determined that patients with high risk HPV are more likely to develop cancer while those with low risk HPV will rarely develop cancer. HPVs are now recognized as the leading cause of cervical cancer and there are around 100 identified types.

HPV and cancer

Whilst it is commonly known that HPV is a risk factor for cervical cancer it may not be realized that it may play a role in other cancers – such as in the anus, vagina, throat, tongue or tonsils, the vulva and even penile cancer.

It should be emphasized that having HPV is not the same as having cancer; very often this type of infection will cause few, if any, health problems and wills simply disappear on its’ own. If there has been any damage or changes to the cervix then regular Pap smear tests should pick them up’.

Testing

A Pap smear test is not a test for HPV, it does, however, allow the healthcare technicians to note any changes to the cervix as a result of an HPV infection – this will result in an abnormal Pap smear test. There is also a test which can be used to identify if a patient is infected with one of the 13 types of high-risk HPV.

Prevention

Practicing safe sex, or abstinence, will greatly lower the risk of contracting HPV, there is also a vaccine available but it does not give full immunity against either the low risk or high risk HPV.

Low risk HPV

Low-risk HPV may cause no symptoms, but may cause genital warts which may develop many years after the initial sexual contact with an infected person. Genital warts in a woman may develop inside and outside the vagina; on the vulva and cervix; in around the anus; in the groin area. In men the warts may appear on the penis; groin and thigh; and in or around the anus.

Very occasionally genital warts have been seen in the mouth and throat of a patient who has had oral sex with an infected partner.

Genital warts may be so small as to be unnoticeable or large enough to see with the naked eye. They may also vary in appearance – flat and flesh colored or bumpy and resembling the texture of a cauliflower. Genital warts occur in groups and may cause discomfort. Many people who contract low-risk HPV never develop genital warts and may never even know they have been infected.

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