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Symptoms and treatment of oral HPV

Oral HPV occurs due to contamination of the oral mucus with the virus, through direct contact with infected lesions during oral sex, for example. HPV lesions in the mouth are most common on the lateral border of the tongue, lips and roof of the mouth, but any area of the oral surface may be affected.

HPV in the mouth may increase the risk of developing oral cancer, so as soon as it is diagnosed you should start treatment that can be done with ointments, other solutions, laser or surgery. Generally, HPV in the mouth has a cure, but its treatment must be done rigorously and for about 2 years.

HPV can also cause the appearance of an infection called Heck's disease. It is a rare disease and consists of a benign epithelial proliferation of the oral mucus in which plaques or small balls appear in the interior of the mouth that are similar to warts and whose coloration is similar to the inside of the mouth or slightly whitish.

Symptoms of HPV in the mouth

Symptoms and treatment of oral HPV
Symptoms and treatment of oral HPV

Symptoms of HPV in the mouth include the appearance of small lesions, resembling whitish warts, which may join and form plaques. These small wounds may be white, clear red or have the same skin color. Sometimes the lesions may be similar to a cold sore.

HPV warts in the mouth are most common on the lip and the lesions manifest themselves as long, firm and narrow, with a light coloration. Whereas condylomata acuminata, which is more common through oral sex, manifests itself through a single slightly horizontal wound, similar to cauliflower.

However, you may be infected with HPV virus in the mouth and show no symptoms because the lesions are not always seen with the naked eye, requiring a medical magnifying glass to be detected.

The incubation period for oral HPV virus can range from 4 weeks to 1 year.

What to do if you suspect

Sometimes it is the dentist who identifies first the lesion that may be HPV, but sometimes you can also suspect you have oral HPV through the symptoms you present. If you suspect, you should go to the doctor, being an infectologist the most suitable to observe the lesions, although a general practitioner, gynecologist or urologist also are familiar with HPV.

The doctor can scrape the lesions and ask for a biopsy so as to confirm it is really HPV and what type it is in order to be able to indicate the most appropriate treatment for your case.

Treatment to cure HPV in the mouth

Treatment for oral HPV depends on the type of injury you present and may vary through the use of laser, surgery or medications such as  70 or 90% trichloroacetic acid or interferon alpha 2 times a week for about 3 months .

There are 24 types of HPV that can affect the region of the mouth and not all of them are related to the onset of cancer. The types that have a higher risk of malignancy are: HPV 16, 18, 31, 33, 35 and 55; the ones that have a medium risk are: 45 and 52, and types that are low risk are: 6, 11, 13 and 32.

After the treatment indicated by your doctor it is important to perform other tests to confirm the lesions have been eliminated. However, it is very difficult to eliminate the HPV virus from the body and therefore, it is not always possible to say that HPV has a cure because the virus may manifest again after some time.

How is HPV transmitted

If you have HPV in the mouth you can pass the virus to others through kissing or oral intimate contact whether your mouth has sores that can be seen with the naked eye or not. However, after the clinical treatment and confirmation that the lesions have been cured, this risk is lower.

The causes of HPV in the mouth may be related to skin-to-skin contact during oral sex with an infected partner or if a mother passes it to her child during normal birth delivery.

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