Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection

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Overview

HPV infection causes small, multiple growths (warts) on the surface of the skin and mucous membranes. There are many varieties of HPV, which cause warts in different regions of the body. Some types of Human Papillomavirus infections  cause a certain genital (cervical) cancer in women.

Causes

Human Papillomavirus infection is usually transmitted via skin to skin contact. So, the cause varies according to the region of the body the wart is present. Some of the causes of different kinds of warts are as follows:

  • Sexual contact
  • Oral sex
  • Touching the wart

Symptoms

Mostly, HPV infection does not have any apparent symptoms as the body’s immune system is enough to fight them off, however, sometimes the infection may lead to the formation of warts on the skin or mucous membranes, conditional to the type of HPV. The different regions of the body where warts can be formed, are listed below:

  • Genital warts – on the external genitalia (penis, vulva, labia, vagina)
  • Common warts – on the hands, elbows, fingers
  • Plantar warts – on the heels of the feet

Some types of HPV can cause cervical cancer in women, which can be prevented by getting vaccinated against those specific type of HPV.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of warts is made entirely by the physical examination of the wart. No specific tests are needed, however, if the wart isn’t visible, the following tests are done to detect the warts:

  • Vinegar solution test
  • Pap test
  • DNA test

Treatment

The treatment is simple. Either with medicines or through surgery:

  • Salicylic acid (topical)
  • Imiquimod (topical)
  • Podofilox (topical)
  • Trichloroacetic acid
  • Freezing off the wart with liquid nitrogen
  • Surgical removal of a wart
  • Burning off the wart with electric current (cauterization)
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