HPV, or the human papilloma virus, is a virus that invades the skin cells and causes them to grow abnormally. These abnormal skin lesions - often called tumors, papillomas or more commonly, warts - can appear in different areas of the body depending of the strain of HPV that infected the skin cells.
There are two types of HPV infections - skin infections and genital infections.
The HPV-1 virus most often causes skin
infections. HPV-1 is transferred through non-sexual contact (like shaking
a hand) and causes warts to appear on arms, legs, feet, hands, and
sometimes the face and neck. Non-sexual HPV is usually easily treatable with
over-the-counter medications or topical prescriptions. Sometimes warts are
removed by a qualified doctor who uses special freezing techniques.
Non-sexual HP (or HPV-1) can be prevented much more easily than infections caused by some of the other strains of HPV. Regular washing of hands can help prevent HPV-1 infections.
The second type of HPV infection is the genital infection which, as the name implies, is spread through sexual contact, including vaginal and anal sexual intercourse and oral sex.
Genital HPVstrains invade skin cells of the genital areas of men and women, the inner thighs, and sometimes mouth and throat. An individual can be infected with genital HPV being anaware of the infection because symptoms of the disease aren’t always visible.
Visible signs of genital HPV are warts of various sizes and colors. These warts are usually painless, although sometimes they can be very itchy.
Most genital HPV infections are non-cancerous, but there are certain strains of the virus that can cause cancer. Genital HPV infections have been linked to an increased risk of cervical cancer in women, and an increased risk of penile cancer in men. Both genders can get anal cancer from some strains of HPV.
Even when the warts disappear, an infected person is not cured. The virus stays in the skin and can lie dormant for the rest of the person’s life. This means that an infected person might never again have any visible genital warts - still breakouts could occur at any time!
This is why many doctors say that it’s very
important for men and women to do what they can to prevent getting genital HPV
infections. Most HPV prevention techniques will not work 100 percent of the
time, but they can greatly reduce the risk of an HPV infection.
Individuals who would like to prevent getting genital HPV currently have these options:
- They can completely abstain from sex. This is not a viable option for many people, but it is the only way to 100 percent prevent a genital HPV infection.
- Practice monogamy. This option is very effective in preventing genital HPV if both partners have had sex only with the other person and no one else. It’s also effective if both partners have tested clear for all STDs, including HPV, and then have sexual relations with only his or her partner.
- Latex condoms. Latex condoms offer some level of protection because they reduce the exchange of fluids. However, condoms don’t cover the entire genital area so an HPV infection can still be spread.
- The most viable
option for effective HPV prevention is the new HPV vaccination. Females
should be vaccinated before their first sexual intercourse.
Still HPV vaccination does not protect from all HPV strains!
This page was last updated:
May 12, 2006It is not the intention of Cervicalcancer.org to provide specific medical advice, but rather to provide users with information to better understand their health and their diagnosed disorders. Specific medical advice will not be provided, and Cervicalcancer.org urges you to consult with a qualified physician for diagnosis and for answers to your personal questions.