Get to know the HPV virus

Get to know the HPV virus

What is HPV?  How many types are there?

HPV is a group of viruses called human papillomavirus which infects epithelial tissue, causing disorders around genital and anal areas.  HPV can be found in both men and women.  There are over 100 strands, of which types 16 and 18 are the most harmful.  

How is it transmitted and spread? 

HPV can be infected through sexual activities involving the vagina, anus or mouth.  The virus spread through wounds, scratches on the skin or skin-to-skin contact, as well as through contacts with contaminated items from infected patient.  An alarming fact is that pregnant moms who have HPV can pass it on to their baby while giving birth.  Thus, infection can occur through direct contact or from sexual activities.  Usually, people who have HPV are asymptomatic, therefore, they may unknowingly infect others.   

Symptoms of HPV

Most people with HPV are asymptomatic because the immune system can eliminate the virus before it progresses to a wart.  Each wart will be different due to type of viruses:

  • Common warts – small blisters that grow on the hands, fingers, elbows.  Their colors include beige, white, pink, or light brown.  The most common sites are hands, fingers and elbows.  They may seem harmless but can be painful and the affected area may bleed easily. 
  • Flat warts – darker in color and look like smooth, flattened or pimply bumps.   Any body part can be affected, but legs are the most common site for women, beard for men and face for children.
  • Genital warts – cauliflower-like appearance which affects the genital and anus areas of both women and men.  They are itchy but not painful.
  • Plantar warts – the soles of the feet are most affected. They are hard bumps and painful when walking and standing.

HPV Risk Groups

  • Men and women who have many sexual partners
  • Young adults and teenagers, especially during reproductive years
  • People who have wounds or scratches on their skin
  • People who have weak immune system such as HIV infection, taking immunosuppressants, have organ transplant, etc.
  • People who have direct contact with wart or virus contaminated item without any protection
  • People who use places that are prone to infection such as public bathroom, swimming pool, etc.

Preventive Measures for HPV 

  • Get 4-valent HPV vaccine for people between 9 and26 years old to prevent cervical cancer
  • Annual cervical cancer screening for women 21-65 years old 
  • Use condom for every sexual encounter
  • Limit the number of sexual partners
  • Do not pick or scratch warts to avoid spreading
  • Wear shoes in places that are prone to infection such as public swimming pool or bathroom, etc. 

Treatment for HPV Infection

Treatment depends on the symptoms.  Warts can be treated by medication while cancer can be treated by radiation or surgery.  An early detection will help doctor treat the disease more effectively to prevent the cancer from spreading.

How to test HPV by yourself?

Today, there is HPV self-collected test designed to collect samples for HPV analysis.  The kit includes a swab and reagent which is approved by United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) to collect sample from woman’s inner cervix to be tested in the laboratory for HPV, Chlamydia trachomatis (C. trachomatis), Neisseria gonorrhoeae (N. gonorrhoeae), Trichomonas vaginalis (TV).

Cancer Specialist Hospital

Over the past 10 years, Wattanosoth Cancer Hospital has been treating cancer patients with our expert teams of doctors, nurses and multidisciplinary specialists who are ready to take care of you in every step of the treatment until you can return to your quality of life.

Consult a cancer specialist