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What is Human Papillomavirus (HPV)?
HPV, or Human Papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection. Unlike HIV and herpes, HPV is very common, affecting almost all sexually active people at some point in their lives.
HPV encompasses a group of related viruses that can cause warts in various parts of the body, with more than 200 different types and around 40 of them affecting the genitals. Transmission occurs primarily through sexual contact with an infected person, although it can also occur through other types of skin-to-skin contact. Some types of HPV increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer.
There are two main categories of sexually transmitted HPV: low-risk, which can cause warts on the genitals, anus, mouth or throat, and high-risk, associated with cancers such as cervical, anal, mouth, throat, vulva, and vagina. and penis.
Symptoms of HPV:
In most cases, infected people have no symptoms, but the infection can cause genital warts or, in persistent cases, increase the risk of cancer.
How is HPV transmitted?
Transmission occurs mainly during sexual contact, whether oral, vaginal or anal, with an infected person. It spreads through direct skin-to-skin contact and not through fluids such as blood or semen. Infections can be asymptomatic, and the person can transmit the virus even without knowing it.
Risk factors include early initiation of sexual intercourse, multiple sexual partners, and lack of consistent condom use.
Diagnosis of HPV infections:
Health professionals usually diagnose warts visually. For women, cervical cancer screenings, such as Pap smears and HPV tests, are key.
A colposcopy is a procedure to carefully examine the cervix, vagina, and vulva. An illuminated colposcope is used to look at problems that are not visible to the naked eye. If problems are found, a biopsy may be performed to analyze the tissue and, if necessary, treat precancerous cells.
Risks and results of colposcopy:
Colposcopy is generally safe, with minimal discomfort such as burning during the use of vinegar or iodine. The biopsy may cause temporary pinching and discomfort. Results may include warts, polyps, cervical irritation, or abnormal tissue. If precancerous cells are found, they can be treated to prevent cancer.
HPV treatment focuses on stimulating the immune system to fight the infection. Tissue lesions caused by the virus are treated, and in cases of cancer, surgical procedures are performed.
Proper use of condoms reduces the risk, but does not eliminate it completely. Vaccines are highly effective and are recommended in adolescents before exposure to the virus.
Immunity acquired during the first infection is not permanent, and reactivation of the virus can occur, especially when the immune system is depressed.
High-risk HPV can cause several types of cancer, being responsible for 99.9% of cervical cancer cases. Prevention involves sexual education, use of condoms, vaccines and strengthening the immune system.
Importance of HPV vaccination:
The HPV vaccine can prevent infection and reduce the risk of cervical cancer and other related cancers. It is routinely recommended in adolescents before exposure to the virus and up to age 26.
ADAM Medical Encyclopedia https://medlineplus.gov/spanish/ency/article/007436.htm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. HPV (Human Papillomavirus) VIS. www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/hpv.html. Updated August 6, 2021. Accessed February 21, 2023.
Murthy N, Wodi AP, McNally V, Cineas S, Ault K. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended immunization schedule for adults aged 19 years or older - United States, 2023. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep . 2023;72(6):141-144. PMID: 36757861 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36757861/.
Wodi AP, Murthy N, McNally V, Cineas S, Ault K. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended immunization schedule for children and adolescents aged 18 years or younger - United States, 2023. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep . 2023;72(6):137-140. PMID: 36757872 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36757872/.
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