what is dangerous, how you can get infected, how to protect yourself

More than 80% of peo­ple are infect­ed with the human papil­lo­mavirus. Some con­sid­er this virus harm­less, oth­ers dan­ger­ous. Both of those are true. How is this pos­si­ble?

papillomavirus photo


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1. There are about 100 different types of HPV

Human papil­lo­mavirus (HPV) is a large group of virus­es that infect the skin and mucous mem­branes. Some of them pro­voke the appear­ance of warts on the arms and legs, oth­ers — papil­lo­mas (warts) on the gen­i­tals. And some cause changes in the cells of the mucous mem­brane of the cervix. But most of these virus­es just live qui­et­ly in the body and do not cause any symp­toms.

2. HPV can cause cervical cancer

There are sev­er­al par­tic­u­lar­ly harm­ful types of HPV. These are virus­es under the dig­i­tal codes 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39 and sev­er­al oth­ers. They are con­sid­ered dan­ger­ous because they are often found in women with cer­vi­cal can­cer. But this does not mean that such car­ri­ers will cer­tain­ly devel­op can­cer. If a woman is reg­u­lar­ly exam­ined by a gyne­col­o­gist, then this dis­ease does not threat­en her. The fact is that cer­vi­cal can­cer devel­ops very slow­ly and goes through sev­er­al com­plete­ly harm­less stages. On each of them, you can com­plete­ly stop the process.

3. Condom does not protect against infection

Human papillomavirus - photo


Read more: How to pro­tect your­self from sex­u­al­ly trans­mit­ted dis­eases

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this is true. Because HPV is trans­mit­ted through unpro­tect­ed skin con­tact dur­ing sex. A con­dom only reduces the risk to some extent. The high­est chance of catch­ing HPV is dur­ing sex with a part­ner who has gen­i­tal warts — the clin­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tions of HPV. If there are no gen­i­tal warts (the part­ner is only a car­ri­er of the virus), infec­tion is still pos­si­ble. But it hap­pens less often. An impor­tant point: the peri­od between infec­tion and the onset of symp­toms can take from sev­er­al weeks to sev­er­al months or years. There­fore, if you have been diag­nosed with this infec­tion or warts have appeared out of the blue, it makes no sense to blame your cur­rent part­ner for this. The infec­tion could have occurred many years ago, and all this time the virus sim­ply dozed. And with the weak­en­ing of the immune sys­tem, it became more active.

4. You don’t need to get tested for HPV just in case.

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Doc­tors some­times exam­ine patients for HPV with­out seri­ous indi­ca­tions. In fact, in most cas­es there is no need for this analy­sis. Because to date, there are no drugs or meth­ods that could “cure” this infec­tion. There­fore, the use­ful­ness of such knowl­edge is ques­tion­able. It makes sense to con­duct tests if a woman is over 30 years old and she has sus­pi­cious changes in her cervix. Then the result of the analy­sis can help the doc­tor decide on fur­ther tac­tics of obser­va­tion and treat­ment.

5. Warts don’t always need to be removed.

What to do if HPV pro­voked the appear­ance of gen­i­tal warts? Depends on their size. It is bet­ter not to touch very small condy­lo­mas at all. They usu­al­ly dis­ap­pear on their own with­in 2 years. But if you start active­ly fight­ing them — cau­ter­ize, con­trol, you can wors­en the sit­u­a­tion. Such obses­sion with the prob­lem is also stress for the body. This means a weak­en­ing of the immune sys­tem. As a result, new ones will appear in place of the removed gen­i­tal warts. Anoth­er thing is if the warts are large, notice­able and cause dis­com­fort. The small­est can be treat­ed with var­i­ous acids (this is done by a doc­tor). They turn white and soon pass. Larg­er ones are best affect­ed by a laser or radio waves. Fast, pain­less and non-trau­mat­ic.

6. HPV Vaccine Prevents Cancer

Human papil­lo­mavirus vac­ci­na­tion has been shown in clin­i­cal stud­ies to effec­tive­ly pre­vent infec­tion by the four most dan­ger­ous onco­genic papil­lo­mavirus­es. This means it reduces the risk of devel­op­ing cer­vi­cal can­cer. How­ev­er, it is not advis­able for every­one to do it. It is best to con­duct it in ado­les­cence, at 12–13 years old. Or before sex­u­al inter­course. The rec­om­men­da­tions for vac­ci­na­tion con­tain data on a pos­si­ble increase in the age for vac­ci­na­tion up to 26 years. How­ev­er, effi­ca­cy in old­er women is low­er. In addi­tion, despite the fact that vac­ci­na­tion pre­vents infec­tion with the most dan­ger­ous onco­genic virus­es, it does not pro­tect against all of them. There­fore, a cyto­log­i­cal exam­i­na­tion of the cervix should be per­formed annu­al­ly by all women from 21 to 66 years of age.

7. HPV in pregnancy does not harm the unborn baby

Human papillomavirus and pregnancy - photo


Read more: What you need to know about hor­mon­al dis­rup­tions

Chil­dren from moth­ers infect­ed with the human papil­lo­mavirus in the vast major­i­ty of cas­es are born healthy. The virus also does not car­ry any threat of preg­nan­cy. The only point: if a woman had changes in the cervix before preg­nan­cy, then dur­ing the peri­od of bear­ing a child, they may look more seri­ous than they real­ly are. This is due to hor­mon­al changes in the body. Usu­al­ly doc­tors sim­ply observe these changes. Only after child­birth, the gyne­col­o­gist should re-eval­u­ate the con­di­tion of the cervix and, if nec­es­sary, pre­scribe treat­ment.

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The opin­ion of the edi­tors may not coin­cide with the opin­ion of the author of the arti­cle.

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