When people hear of a sexually transmitted infection (STI), their common reaction is that of concern.
Let me tell you it isn’t always the case. Or at least it isn’t supposed to be as scary.
Before anything, let’s dive into the details of what HPV means and why vaccine safety and knowing what prevents HPV is essential.
Overview of HPV
And Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STI. It transmits through people by skin-to-skin contact. This can be sexually transmitted and it affects the genital region, mouth or throat.
Did you know there are over 100 types of HPV? Interestingly, sexually active people can get some kind at one point in time. Even those with just a few sexual partners are prone to having HPV.
But here’s breaking the taboo- a few cases of genital HPV infection don’t cause major health concerns. Although there are a few which can lead to the development of genital warts. If certain HPV conditions aren’t treated in a timely manner, it can also cause cancer of the cervix, anus, or throat.
There are also those HPV infections which will actually go on their own. According to Healthline, did you know that 9 out of 10 of these HPV types will go away on their own within two years.
But it still exists in the body, and because it remains undetected, the person who has HPV might unknowingly transmit it during sex.
Now, let’s look into the kinds of HPV that exist and how it can be tested.
Types of HPV You Should Know
HPV is also called a common group of viruses. It is important to know that this disease can not only pass through penetrative sex. It can also transfer through any genital skin-to-skin contact.
You might ask how the infection looks in appearance.
It actually exists in the thin, flat cells called epithelial cells and is found on the skin’s surface. They appear on various body parts including the surface of a vagina, anus and the tip of a penis.
But here’s the thing: many of the HPV infections do not cause symptoms. This means many people don’t know that they are even infected.
According to WEBMD, this condition is so common that the CDC estimates that almost 80 million people in the United States have it.
When dividing the various types of viruses, we can distinguish them as being ‘high risk’ and ‘low risk’.
The High and Low Risks HPV
The high risks are those which are linked to certain cancers, like cervical, genital. High risk of HPV is usually found in more than 99% of cervical cancers.
The low risks are those which are those which are usually associated with genital warts and these aren’t dangerous and prone to cancer development. These are also pink or seem raised and can be either large or small.
The HPV strains like the type 6 and type 11 come under this kind. They appear as bumps also and can show up weeks or even months after a person have sex with an infected partner.
Other kinds of HPV types appear in the form of warts on the hands and feet. And these can enter the body through the mucous membranes of anus and genitals sexually.
Do you know that your body has such a strong immune system that despite contracting the disease , it can heal on its own before the appearance of warts.
However if warts do appear, here’s for you to identify the HPV type according to the appearance of warts:
They look like small cauliflowers and usually appear on the vulva but can also appear on the anus and cervix. For men, these appear on the penis or scrotum or even both in severe cases.
These are called common warts as they can easily appear on the hands and fingers and can cause even severe bleeding. They are also painful.
Warts which appear on the heels and balls of the feet are called plantar warts and cause a lot of discomfort.
These are flat-topped lesions. They are slightly raised and can appear on the face for children, men have it in their beard area. And women get them on their legs.
Know, this, not all of the 40 sexually transmitted human papillomaviruses is known to cause any serious conditions.
So if you think HPV is something you might be having, we will now talk about if it’s possible to have yourself tested?
Your HPV Doubts Sorted
How do you protect yourself from HPV?
There are certain preventive measures you can take up, which will protect you from HPV.
Let’s talk about what can be done:
*Make use of a new condom every time you have sex. Although the condom only protects the area it is covering, and those that aren’t covered won’t offer full protection.
*You can protect your body and skin from HPV types by making use of dental dam and latex gloves when having fun with your partner.
* Wash your sex toys after every use. Avoid getting a strong case of STDs.
Can I Be Tested for HPV?
If a person is already healthy and thriving, they don’t really need to go for routine HPV tests.
Does Pap smear detect HPV?
It’s a misconception that Pap test can detect HPV. Let’s put it out bluntly- a pap test done for women doesn’t determine the HPV readings in a person. All it does is provide changes in the cervix cells.
If your doctor finds that there have been certain changes in the cervix cells, only then will you get lab tests done.
Although there’s a concept known as ‘co-testing’ which is when women who are over 30 are getting a pap smear, will also get a test done for HPV. This is to determine if there are abnormal cervical cells and if so, then the doctor will further advise tests.
It’s always good advice to have at least tested once a year after the age of 30.
Now we will talk about the most important topic in this post– HPV Vaccine
Good News- There is HPV vaccination Available
As of now there are 3 known vaccines which protect against HPV 16 and HPV 18 as these are both known to cause almost 70% of the cervical cancers.
That’s a huge figure.
The third vaccine is the one which protects against other various HPV types including those which are oncogenic. The oncogenic HPV types are responsible for 20% of cervical cancers. Vaccination is not recommended in only a few certain cases.
Interestingly WHO has openly embraced and voiced for these three kinds as protecting against cervical cancer.
It recommends that HPV vaccines work before HPV exposure. Hence girls should get vaccinated between the ages of 9 and 14 years. Boys aged 12 years are ideal for getting the vaccine. This is before the setting of sexual activity.
Now let’s move onto:
When to give HPV vaccine ?
The Gardasil 9 HPV vaccine is administered to both girls and boys. Aside from preventing cervical cancer, it can also protects against vaginal and vulvar cancer.
Since a few kinds of HPV are associated to mouth and throat cancers, this kind of HPV vaccine offers protection against these viruses.
Again it’s important that this vaccine is given before the onset of sexual activity. Because if someone affected is given the vaccine, it will not be as effective.
While the prime age to administer this vaccine is 9years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommend that till the age of 12, youngsters should receive two doses of HPV vaccine. And these should be given with a gap of 6 months.
For teens, which start on the vaccine later in age, must get three doses of this vaccine.
But is there a group of people who are not suited to this vaccine. Yes, there is and know more:
HPV Vaccine- Who Shouldn’t Be Administered
This vaccine isn’t suited for anyone who is:
*has history of diseases
*is also having severe allergies
But If I’m already sexually active- will it still help?
Yes it will. It may not help in the same way but if you are facing any HPV strains, having the vaccine at any point will help to protect you against other HPV strains.
Remember these vaccines protect you against certain HPV types which your body hasn’t been exposed to before.
Are there any side-effects I should worry about?
The vaccines are used worldwide, they don’t have drastic effects.
However it does cause soreness and swelling.
In certain cases, some people face dizziness and even faintness after being administered with HPV.
Best way to combat these conditions is to remain on your seat for 15-20minutes. If any severe issues persist, getting medical guidance and further professional advice is recommended.
Can HPV vaccine cure the disease?
To put it out bluntly- The vaccines cannot cure HPV infection or HPV-associated disease. Specifically, cancer.
However these vaccines do get a lot done as these vaccinations if administered early can help against the onset of various genital cancers.
Women who are over 25 years of age should have cervical cancer screening at regular intervals.
These vaccines for HPV can also prevent against genital warts in male and female.
Studies have shown that the vaccine protects against HPV infection for at least 10 years, although experts expect protection to last for much longer.
Having an intimate relationship just requires you to be safe- for your health and your partner’s.
It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Adapt the precautionary measures from HPV to keep safe from its dangerous strains.
If you want to learn more, reach out to our clinic –Dr.Amal Al Qedrah and one of your specialists will clear all your doubts and inquiries.