What is Human papillomavirus (HPV)?
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is mainly spread by intimate skin-to-skin contact during oral, vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Some types of HPV infection cause warts, and some can cause different types of cancer.
Most people who get HPV do not know they have it. They may have no symptoms.
What about HPV Symptoms in women?
Most sexually active people are infected by HPV infection at some point in their lives. The virus is spread through sexual contact. In most cases, the body’s immune system clears the virus from the body within 2 years. However, the virus remains dormant in some cases and may cause problems later in life.
This article will explain what HPV is, what it can do to you and what are the HPV symptoms in women, if any.
In some cases, HPV may go unnoticed for years together.
If the HPV virus remains in the body for many years, there is an increased risk of developing cancer.
One of the most common cancers caused by HPV is cervical cancer. At the initial stages, there may be no HPV symptoms in women that indicate the presence of cancer, but one of the most common preventive measures a woman can take is to undergo a PAP smear test regularly. Doctors opine that, women must undergo a Pap test every 3–5 years, depending on their age and other risk factors.
Common symptoms to look out for
Some symptoms of advanced cervical cancer include:
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Throbbing pain in the pelvic region
- Unusual discharge from the vagina
- Unusual bleeding, such as after sex
Some symptoms of more advanced cervical cancer include:
- rapid weight loss
- immense difficulty in passing urine and bowel
- traces of blood in the urine
What are the risk factors associated with HPV?
While HPV infections may be common, certain risk factors are associated with them. These may or may not be limited to:
- Multiple sexual partners | Having multiple sexual partners and practicing unsafe sex makes one more prone to getting affected by the genital HPV infection.
- Declining immune systems | A weak immune system is another factor that can expose a person to HPV. Such people are at a greater risk of getting infected as their immunity is low.
- Damaged skin | Skin with open wounds is more prone to developing common warts, which is one of the common symptoms of HPV.
- Personal contact | Touching someone’s warts without using gloves or protection is another way of contracting HPV, as skin-to-skin contact with a person having HPV can be fatal.
- Exposure to public spaces | Public places like the swimming pool or public showers that are not sanitized can be a breeding ground for contracting HPV.
While many underlying conditions can aggravate the presence of HPV, most HPV symptoms in women and men usually occur 2 to 3 months after infection. But in some cases, the symptoms can be dormant and surface after many years of the infection.
Some of the indicators of HPV are:
- Common warts – Warts that are caused by HPV virus infections rarely subside without treatment. They are the most common type of infection and can be prevented by treating HPV with the right drugs. If you have a common wart, you can prevent its spread and the formation of new warts by not picking at it and not biting your nails.
- Plantar warts – These kinds of warts can happen when you are exposed to public spaces. In order to reduce the risk of contracting HPV infections that cause plantar warts, it is recommended that you wear shoes or sandals in public pools and locker rooms.
- Genital warts – Since these warts are more common in sexually active people, you can reduce the risk of developing genital warts and other HPV-related genital lesions by using protection during sexual intercourse and avoiding multiple partners.
The good news is that HPV is a vaccine-preventable infection. I recommend you to talk to your doctor about HPV prevention via regular screening and vaccination and secure your health.
You can read more about HPV here and also consult the expert on the site about HPV prevention.
Issued in public interest by MSD India.
This information is for awareness only. Please consult your doctor for more information on HPV.