What is HPV?


hpvSynonyms: human papilloma virus

HPV is a virus that affects the skin and mucous membranes and can cause warts or cancer precursor lesions, such as cervical uterine cancer, throat or anus. HPV name is an English acronym for “Human Papilloma Virus” and each type of HPV can cause warts in different parts of the body.

HPV is a virus that is transmitted in the skin contact, so it can be considered a sexually transmitted disease. In the first sexual contact 1 in 10 girls come into contact with the virus. As time goes on, between 80 and 90% of the population has come into contact with the virus at some time in life, even if it has not developed injury. But it is important to remember that over 90% of people can eliminate the virus from the body naturally, without clinical manifestations.

Types

There are over 200 types of HPV. To date 150 of them have been identified and genetically sequenced.

Among these types, only 14 can cause cancer precursor lesions, such as cervical uterine cancer, throat or anus. 70% of these lesions are caused by HPV types 16 and 18, while HPV 31, 33, 45 and other less common types are found in all other cases.

Already the HPV type 6 and 11 are also quite common in women, but cause only genital warts.

The type of HPV is detected through the two types of tests: genetic testing and hybrid capture PCR test. These tests may provide information such as the type, viral load or to check whether or not this HPV oncogenic, i.e., it can progress to cancer.

Causes

HPV is a virus that is transmitted in the skin contact, so it can be considered a sexually transmitted disease, because 98% of transmissions occur through sexual contact. But unlike other STDs, there need be exchange fluids for the transmission to occur: only the contact of the penis with the vagina, for example, already causes the transmission of the virus.
The use of condoms is an important safeguard to prevent the transmission of HPV and should not be forgotten even during anal sex or oral sex. The female condom is a good ally, because it allows a smaller contact yet between the skin of the partners.
Other forms of transmission, much more rare, are by contact with skin warts, sharing underwear or towels, and finally, vertical transmission, ie from mother to fetus, which may occur during childbirth.
The virus can be transmitted even when the person realizes not have symptoms. Another point on HPV is that although the symptoms usually manifested after between two and eight months of infection, it may be incubates, or present in the body, but not manifest, for up to 20 years. So it is virtually impossible to know when or how the person has been infected with HPV.

Risk factors

Any people who have an active sex life are at risk of contact with any of the HPV types. However some risk factors increase the chance that contact occur:

  • Unprotected sex
  • Early sex life
  • Multiple partners
  • No routine screening
  • Immunosuppression, i.e., the fall of the immune system
  • Presence of other sexually transmitted diseases

Moreover, risk factors for cancer associated HPV are changes in the immune response of our organism, such as:

  • Multiple pregnancies
  • Use of high-dose oral contraceptives for a long time
  • smoking
  • HIV infection
  • hemotherapy, radiotherapy or immunosuppressant
  • Sintomas de HPV

Over 90% of people can eliminate the HPV virus from the body naturally, without clinical manifestations.

The main symptom of HPV, when expressed, is the appearance of skin lesions or warts, usually a white or brownish smudge it itches. Often, however, the damage may not be visible to the naked eye, appearing as colposcopy examinations, and vulvoscopia peniscopy.

Usually the lesions appear in the genital region, but can occur in other parts of the body. See the most common:

In the female body, the lesions usually develop on the vulva, vagina, cervix

In the male genitals, the penis is the most common place for appearance of HPV

In both genders, the anus, throat, mouth, hands and feet are places where the HPV virus usually manifests

Seeking medical help

Remember, not every wart is caused by HPV infection. However, if you present warts or lesions in the genital area it is important to seek guidance from a gynecologist or urologist.

Remember that, in most cases, HPV is located in routine screening of women, because the problem may not show any symptoms.

HPV diagnostics

Usually the discovery of HPV happens in a routine examination, such as Pap smears, colposcopy, vulvoscopia, peniscopy or anoscopy. In these tests it can be used a coloring reagent that will facilitate the search for lesions made with a special device that allows viewing with increased surface skin and mucous membranes.

When the lesion is found, a biopsy is taken of that lesion is removed for analysis of tissue and DNA from causative lesion virus. Tests such as genetic testing PCR and hybrid capture test may provide information such as the type, viral load or to check whether or not this HPV oncogenic, i.e., it can progress to cancer.

In addition, genetic tests are able to detect the presence of HPV in the body, called the HPV test. Usually it is recommended for women over 30 years, a time when most women have had a chance to eliminate the virus may have acquired at the beginning of sexual life.