Human Papillomavirus: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

HPV is the name given to a group of germs (viruses) that can affect the skin and mucous membranes. Mucous membranes are the wet membranes that line different parts of the body, including the mouth, throat, and genital area.

There are more than one hundred types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and about 40 of these can affect the genital area. Some of these types can cause warts on the skin, but many types do not cause any problems or damage at all.

Both men and women can have the Human Papilloma Virus. There are certain risk factors, which include:

  • Smoke
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • The early age of having the first sexual relationship

Most women will have an HPV infection at some point in their life, usually without even knowing it. Some types of Human Papillomavirus are known  that may increase the risk of developing cancer. These are known to cause cancer (oncogenic) or high-risk subtypes. About 9 out of 10 HPV infections are completely relieved over a period of two years thanks to the body’s immune system, which is a self-limiting infection in most people.

What is the link between human papillomavirus infection and cervical cancer?

Most types of HPV do not cause any symptoms or illness. However, the two types, HPV 16 and HPV 18, are involved in the development of cervical cancer cases (the cervix). HPV infection with types 16 and 18 can cause cells in the cervix to change little by little over time. This can lead to precancerous cells or even cancer.

Pre-cancerous cells are known as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). Having this type of HPV infection does not mean that you will definitely go on to develop cervical cancer. However, the risk of developing this type of cancer is greatly increased with these infections.

Human papilloma virus and genital warts

There are two types of HPV (types 6 and 11) that are the cause of approximately 9 out of 10 cases of genital warts. These types of HPV do not cause cervical cancer.

Treatment for the Human Papilloma Virus

There is no treatment for HPV itself. But there are vaccines against this virus:

Cervarix and Gardasil

Cervarix It is known as a bivalent vaccine, which means that it protects against the two strains of HPV, it protects against HPV16 and HPV18 by decreasing the number of cervical cancer cases over time.

Gardasil. It is a tetravalent vaccine, that is, it protects against four strains of HPV, HPV16, HPV18 and HPV6 and HPV11. This means that it also protects against genital warts, as well as cervical cancer.

Is the vaccine against human papillomavirus effective?

It has been shown that the vaccine works better in younger people, before they start their sex lives, unlike when they are given to adults. However, the HPV vaccine still does not fully protect against all infections.