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HPV: what is it, symptoms, transmission and treatment

HPV is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the Human Papillomavirus that results in the onset of warts in the genital area after intimate contact with an infected person. This disease has a chronic evolution and the cure is difficult, so it’s important that the diagnosis be made early on, especially when the initial symptoms appear, and the treatment should always be done under medical guidance.

Due to the appearance of genital warts, HPV can also be known as condyloma acuminata or “rooster crest”. The treatment can be done with the use of ointments or solutions that must be applied at the site of the warts in order to eliminate the lesions caused by the virus and strengthen the immune system.

 HPV: what is it, symptoms, transmission and treatment

HPV symptoms

HPV symptoms can take months or years to show up, being influenced by the immune system and viral load, that is, the amount of virus circulating in the body. The most characteristic symptom of HPV is the appearance of several small warts in the male or female intimate area.

In women, warts may also be present in the cervix, which aren’t easily visible, and not present in the female outer area. Therefore, the diagnosis of HPV should be done by clinical-visual examination and confirmed by a pap smear or biopsy of the warts.

Are symptoms different in men?

HPV in men is similar to HPV in women, but it’s very common for men to have no symptoms, although the virus is present in the skin of the genital organ and can be passed on to others through intercourse. 

Sometimes the virus is naturally eliminated by the body and a man can contaminate his partner, who develops symptoms, but when the man is tested, he discovers that he no longer has the virus. So, it may not always be possible to know who passed the virus on.

A colposcopy is used to identify HPV in humans and treatment can be done with cryotherapy, laser, solutions and ointments, as well as remedies to strengthen the immune system. The treatment does not interfere with erection and male fertility.

How to treat HPV

The treatment for HPV lasts on average 2 years and it’s important that it be done according to the doctor's guidance, even if there are no symptoms, for an easier cure. The medication indicated by your doctor aims to strengthen your immune system and eliminate the lesions formed by HPV, which may be the:

  • Use of ointments and solutions applied by the doctor in his office;
  • Cauterization (laser) surgeries done from time to time by a surgeon.

70% and 90% trichloroacetic acid (ATA) and 15% Podofilox (Condylox) in alcoholic solution should be applied by the doctor once a week and ointment, such as 0.15% Podophylotoxin, should be applied by you twice a day.

Treatment of HPV is time-consuming and can be expensive, but it is the only way to beat the disease and reduce the risk of cancer in men and women.

Can HPV be cured?

In some people, HPV cures itself due to spontaneous remission. This type of remission can happen between 4 weeks and 2 years after virus contamination in people who have a good immune system and who rarely get sick. The problem is that these people may never have any HPV-related symptoms, but can contaminate others as long as they don’t heal properly.

If you find out that you’ve been contaminated with HPV, but don’t have any symptoms, the doctor can assess whether treatment should be done, but it may be useful to invest in home treatments, strengthening the immune system by consuming foods rich in vitamin C, such as pineapple, acerola and strawberry, for example.

On the other hand, people with HPV symptoms that are left untreated don’t get cured, so treatment is always necessary. Relapses are common, however, a completely cure is possible when the treatment is done correctly. When the symptoms disappear at the end of treatment, the doctor will confirm, through testing, that you are cured of HPV and this can be done through tests.

Although treatment is not always enough to cure HPV definitively, it is important because HPV infection increases the risk of cancer. To be 'cured' of HPV, take the medication recommended by your doctor and use condoms in all intimate contact.

How do you get HPV?

The HPV virus is highly contagious, and its transmission occurs through intercourse without the use of a condom with an individual infected by the virus. It only takes 1 contact to become contaminated.

The incubation time of the virus varies from 1 month to 2 years and during this period, although there are no symptoms, you can contaminate others because you may have warts invisible to the naked eye. Women can also transmit HPV to the baby during normal delivery.

Is there a vaccine against HPV?

The HPV vaccine is indicated for women and men between the ages of 9 and 26 and the aim is to lower the risk of cervical, penile and anal cancer. The vaccine is free for all girls between the ages of 9 and 13 because it has a 100% efficacy rate when administered before the first intimate contact. From the age of 14, anyone who wants to take the HPV vaccine should buy it at a chemist’s.

Those who have had intercourse or already have HPV can also take the vaccine because it protects them against other types of HPV strains. After the vaccine is taken, it is still necessary to use condoms in all sexual contact to avoid contamination with other HPV viruses.

Although very effective, this vaccine can have side effects.

Types of HPV virus

There are more than 100 types of HPV, with only 4 of them being cancer-related. Types 16 and 18 cause about 70% of cases of cervical cancer, while types 6 and 11 cause about 90% of genital warts.

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