Human papillomavirus

Papiloma humano

Table of contents

What is human papillomavirus?

Abbreviated to HPV, human papillomavirus is the cause of one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases today. In fact, infection with this virus is very common. It is transmitted through contact with body fluids, infected genitalia or mucous membranes. It is important to mention that both men and women can become infected with this virus and transmit it to other individuals through sexual intercourse.

The curious thing is that most people who have sexual intercourse become infected at some point in their lives. The reason for this high level of transmission is that it usually does not cause symptoms and disappears from the body due to the action of the immune system.

However, there are many types of HPV. Some, which are not transmitted through sexual intercourse, can cause certain symptoms, such as warts on the hands and soles of the feet. Types 6 and 11 of the virus are considered low-risk because, although they can cause genital warts, they do not cause major health problems.

In addition to types 6 and 11, which are low risk, there are 14 high-risk virus types (16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59, 66 and 68). These are the ones of concern, as they can cause cancer of the cervix or any sexual organ. Occasionally they can also cause cancer of the neck or throat. The most dangerous are 16 and 18, as they cause most of the cancer related to this virus.


One of the complexities of this virus is that, if it is a high-risk virus, patients have no symptoms. If it results in cancer, it can be detected, but not by the virus, but by the symptoms related to the cancer. Human papilloma has a very slow cancer development process, so a patient could be carrying the virus for years before having cancerous symptoms.

Low-risk human papilloma, on the other hand, can be detected quickly, as genital warts appear with it.

How does human papilloma work in women?

Human papilloma can be detected because it causes an increase in vaginal discharge, in addition to the appearance of warts and abnormal vaginal bleeding. Most of the time the virus disappears from the body without the individual knowing they have contracted it thanks to the immune system. If it does not disappear in this way, there is no cure to eliminate the virus from the body, but there are methods to protect ourselves from it. There are vaccines against some types of HPV, the most pathological ones. The cellular changes that are generated can be resolved by eliminating the warts and even surgically treating an organ before a high-risk type of HPV turns it into cancer.

How do you know if a man has HPV?

Most men who become infected with HPV have no symptoms, it clears from the body and does not develop into genital cancer. Today, however, there is no globally approved test to detect this virus in men. If a man wants to know if he is a carrier, he would have to have a swab of the penis and genital areas. An expert must obtain the sample and analyze it with PCR in order to find out if there is presence of genetic material of the virus, as well as to know the serotype he is carrying.

Can a person live a long time with HPV?

If the body is able to eliminate the virus naturally, it can take approximately 2 years to do so, without the infected person suffering symptoms. There are other cases in which the person carries the virus for years or long periods of time, with or without symptoms. One of the difficulties in detecting HPV is that it can remain latent in a person and appear years later.

If, unfortunately, HPV reaches the point of causing cancer, it would be detected months or even years after infection.


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