Human papillomavirus infection is one of the most common sexually transmitted disease affecting about 79 million of the American population (CDC, 2017). Infections are prevalent among teenagers and young adults below 25 years old (CDC, 2017). The virus exists in more than 100 different types and exhibits itself through warts on mucous membranes or the skin (CDC, 2017). However, some types of infection are said to cause cancer, example being cancer of cervix, penis, anus, vulva, and the throat. The disease is usually transmitted through skin contact or sexual intercourse. It is difficult to detect when infected, as it can manifest itself years after having sexual intercourse with an infected person. People can transmit the infection to others even when they do not have the symptoms. Where complications occur, HPV causes cancer and lesions on the tongue, soft palate, larynx, nose, and tonsils (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2019). It is therefore essential that we understand the causes of the disease to come up with the best ways to prevent and treat it.
The virus infects the male and female genitals, and it only affects humans. The virus causes genital warts in low-risk HPV. It is also the leading cause of cancer of the uterus and cervix. The virus belongs to the pappillomaviridae family. It takes a virion form, which is the shape taken by a virus when outside living cells and can cause infection (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2019). The virion is made up of a capsid that is not enveloped, and it is round with icosahedral symmetry (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2019). The capsid has a diameter of about 40 to 55 nanometers. (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2019). The virus also is made up of a single molecule of double-stranded DNA that is supercoiled. Its genome has 5300 to 8000 nucleotides. (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2019).
The likelihood to get infected with HPV increases with the increasing number of sexual partners. Having a partner with multiple sexual partners has the same effect. Warts are also common in young adults and teens, making it unlikely to old aged, especially common warts. The immune system also determines the likelihood of contracting HPV. A weakened system from transplant drugs or other infections like HIV/AIDS increases the chances of contracting HPV. A skin that is damaged that is opened or punctured is commonly prone to warts. Personal contact with infected persons or surfaces that are prone to being in touch with an infected person increases the chances of contracting HPV (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2019).
HPV does not cause complicated health problems. It often goes away as body defense mechanisms easily defeat it. However, where it persists, it can cause cancer and warts, mainly in the genital areas. Symptoms include warts that appear either as bumps or a group of them, in different sizes and thicknesses (CDC, 2017). Genital warts in women occur on the vulva, vagina, anus or cervix as bumps resembling cauliflower. For the men, they appear on the scrotum, anus, and penis. Warts are not painful and do not cause discomfort but may sometimes itch. Bumps look like raised bumps, usually rough and occur on fingers and hands. Sometimes they may be painful, but quickly get injured and bleed. On the heels and feet balls, plantar warts appear as grainy and hard growths that may at times cause discomfort. Flat warts are not raised and appear on faces of babies, bearded area of men, and legs of women (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2019).
Tests and Treatment
Doctors diagnose HPV by examining a patient's warts. However, at times, blemishes are not visible, which requires doctors to use pap tests, vinegar, or DNA test. When vinegar is applied to infected areas, they turn white, helping doctors to see flat lesions. In pap tests, cell samples from the vagina or cervix are tested in the laboratory for abnormalities associated with cancer. A DNA test is done by extracting cells from the uterus and testing them for varieties of HPV that are known to be high risks of genital diseases. The infection has no known cure. However, there are different treatment procedures. Warts on children often go away by themselves, but since the virus has no cure, they can reappear from time to time. Salicylic acid is used to remove the layers or warts and can be purchased over the counter (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2019). Imiquimod cream is also used to enhance the body immune system and help fight the infection. Podofilox is used to treat HPV by destroying warts tissues in the genital areas. The trichloroacetic chemical is used to burn warts on palms, genitals, and soles. Where medications do not work, doctors can help remove blemishes by surgery, freeze them with liquid nitrogen, burn with electric current or by laser surgery. In the cervix, HPV is treated through a procedure referred to as colposcopy.
Prevention and vaccine
Commons warts from HPV are not easy to prevent, but its spread can be restricted by avoiding biting nails or picking on common warts. Wearing shoes and sandals on locker rooms and public pools may help prevent plantar warts. Genital warts are prevented by having responsible sexual behavior (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2019). Having one faithful partner, reduced sexual partners, and use of latex condom. The Food and Drug Administration has approved vaccines for the HPV, such as Gardasil 9, which is used for both females and males between 9 and 45 years. Boys and girls of ages 11 ads 12 are recommended by the CDC to have routine vaccination, especially before being sexually active. The vaccines are not very useful when somebody has already been infected and are therefore recommended for earlier ages yet to be exposed to sexual activity (World Health Organization, 2019).
The HPV has a high prevalence around the world and with cases of cervical and anal cancer arising in people who have suffered from the virus. It is, therefore, crucial that ways of preventing and treating the disease are established to help reduce infections. It can be done by understanding the nature of the virus and how it behaves in its environment. Vaccines have been developed to help reduce infection cases.
CDC. (2017, November 16). Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Retrieved from Centres for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2019). HPV Infection. Retrieved from Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hpv-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20351596
World Health Organization. (2019). Human Papillomavirus. Retrieved from World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/biologicals/areas/human_papillomavirus/en/
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