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HPV AND WARTS: PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE

HPV is one of the most wide spread infections affecting millions around the globe. HPV stands for Human Papilloma Virus and it is classified under the PapillomaVirus family. HPV’s are known to affect the mucous membranes or skin’s stratified epithelium. There are about 200 known types of HPV and majority of them do not cause any major symptoms in victims. But they are the prime cause of Genital Warts. In some extreme cases they may also lead to cancers of Vagina, Cervix, Anus and Vulva in women and of penis and anus in men.

Most of the HPV’s are transferred through sexual contact and thus affect mostly ano-genital areas. These areas are then affected by the warts. A team from McGill University's Cancer Epidemiology Unit conducted a research and found that 56 % of screened couples were infected with HPV (1). This infection ameliorates within 2 years. But if the infection persists then it is highly likely to cause invasive cancer and pre-cancer lesions. The cure rates are high as it takes 15-20 years for full growth and in the mean time many symptoms can be observed and treated.

Warts being the initial and most common infection of HPV can be detected easily. These infections can cause uncontrolled growth of cells on outer layer of skin and are non-cancerous in nature. These types of warts include:

·        Common Warts (cauliflower-like skin surface and occurs on hands and feet)

·        Plantar Warts (occurs under feet soles and grows inwards),

·        Subungual Warts (found under fingernail and is difficult to treat) and

·        Flat Warts (occurs on arms, face and forehead).

Genital warts can be quite contagious and are the most common sign of genital HPV infection. The prime cause of this infection is sexual intercourse and risk increases with increase in number of partners. The most common types of HPV that causes infection in the ano-genital tract are type 6, 11, 18 and 16. Out of these, HPV-16 and HPV-18 are the most common types believed to cause ano-genital and cervical cancer. Most of the infected persons are unaware of the infection and can pass it on to their partners.

 However, it is very rare that pregnant women can pass it to her newly born. About 1% of the sexually active adults have had genital warts once in their live. In US alone, around 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancers each year. These startling facts are revealed by the Department of Health and Human Services (2). It further states that each year in the US, 3700 women develop cancer of the vulva, 1000 women develop vaginal cancer and 1000 men are infected with penile cancer.

Though there are no tests particularly for HPV infections, there are tests to screen cervical cancer. This test is called Pap test and is used to find abnormal cells on the cervix so that cancer symptoms can be detected. Usually, an HPV infection goes on its own, without causing serious health problems. Nevertheless, treatment is available in the market. The vaccines are given in three shots (at young age) and it is advised that vaccine be given before a person’s first sexual contact. There are two vaccines for females (Cervarix and Gardasil) to protect them against genital warts. As for men only one vaccine (Gardasil) provides immunity against genital warts. Also, condoms are believed to lower the risk of HPV infection.

HPV is not a deadly disease and provides ample time for detection and treatment. But, in the case of HPV and Genital warts prevention is better than cure.

 

 

References:

1) http://www.zeenews.com/news596077.html

2) http://www.cdc.gov/STD/HPV/STDFact-HPV.htm

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