HPV virus – consequences of infection

November 12, 2012

HPV virus – consequences of infection

The HPV virus has had acres of coverage in the press in recent times. HPV stands for human papillomavirus and is an incurable virus that may well have devastating consequences for those infected with it. Whilst much of the education around the HPV virus has been targeted at women it is now known that men are just as much at risk of infection and transmission of this virus. The development of a vaccine against the HPV virus has led to a media campaign targeting girls as young as thirteen in an attempt to have all young women immunised against the disease.

Many people may be infected with the HPV virus without realising it – the virus often disappears of its own volition.

Essential information about the hpv virus

  • The hpv virus causes the development of genital warts.
  • Warts may appear on the genitals and the anus as well as in the throat and mouth.
  • The warts are generally painless, and may even be unnoticeable; their appearance varies from flat to raised and resembling cauliflower florets.
  • Any warts can be treated with medication or removal
  • Warts may appear on the eyes and may appear to be finger shaped or to have horns.
  • There are over one hundred types of warts which may be caused by the HPV virus – each one identified by a number
  • The vaccine is currently only recommended for women
  • No testing currently exists for men

Risks and complications

Some types of high risk HPVs are known to cause changes to the cells of the cervix or mucus lining of the throat and mouth, these cell changes are referred to as dysplasia and carry an increased risk of developing cancer.

Low risk HPV – typically the six and eleven virus types – carry a low risk of causing cell changes but do cause genital warts, warts on the hands and veruccas – although the warts may appear anywhere on the body.

Transmission of HPV

HPV can be transmitted via skin to skin contact – including kissing and during sex. Many of those infected with the HPV virus may have had it for many years without realizing it. Anyone who has been in a long term, monogamous relationship may be shocked to be told they have the virus during a routine screening process, such as a cervical smear. However, it is not possible to detect how long the virus has been present and its presence should not be taken as proof of infidelity.

HPV and cervical cancer

Most women with an HPV infection, even if it is high risk, will not go on to develop cervical cancer. There are many other contributory risk factors for cancer – including whether an individual smokes and the efficiency of the immune system.

Regular cervical screening will detect the development of any cell abnormalities before they become cancerous – this is one of the reasons it is essential not to delay your regular smear tests.

Individuals with a pre-existing medical condition that affects their immune system will be at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer and should also undergo regular screening for the disease.

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