Unfolding HPV Causes: How Do You Get It?   

Rishabh Mehta
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Kaushal

Review medical content on WOW Rx Pharmacy, so that accurate drug use information is easily accessible to everybody.
Dr. Akansha is a licensed Clinical Pharmacologist. She possesses remarkable knowledge in Pharmacovigilance, prescription analysis, drug information, and drug safety services. Additionally, she is a keen learner and an educator.

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hpv causes

HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is one of the leading Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) with no cure at current times.

According to WHO, 69,400 men and  625,600 women get HPV-related cancer each year.

The above statement signifies not only the potential threat, but also the fact that HPV is not a single virus, it has more than 100 types that affect different body parts.

So, to understand and treat HPV efficiently, we need to know about the pathogen that causes the infection and its means of spread.

In this article, we will try to explore HPV causes along with its transmission modes to stay a step ahead in the prevention and cure of this widespread infection.

What causes HPV

The main cause of HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is the virus itself which leads to infection by targeting epithelial tissues. 

The infection starts with the basal layer of epithelial cells (cells that form the surface of our body). 

The viral genomes (DNA or RNA with complete genetic material of virus) are further replicated in the body. They work by manipulating the cellular DNA of the host cell and continue to amplify.

Once infected, HPV clears up from the body within two years. In rare cases, it can go up to decades.

The infection can spread from an infected person to others through various means. Some modes of HPV transmission include:

Sexual contact

couple hugging on bedSource: Getty_images
Sexual contact

The first common way people end up having HPV is through sexual contact. Anal or vaginal sex can lead to direct genital contact with an affected person.

In this way, the infection is passed on through the genital area that has warts or semen. Moreover, oral sex can lead to Oral HPV and Upper Respiratory Lesions.

Skin-to-skin contact

Another cause of HPV is skin-to-skin contact. Warts, which may appear as the symptom of HPV, are contagious. 

It means skin-to-skin contact of areas affected with warts will spread to other body parts and another person.

Through cuts and abrasions

A person may also get exposed to HPV if the virus manages to enter the body through a cut or tear in the skin.

Besides the skin-to-skin contact with open wounds, HPV can spread through something that comes in contact with warts.

Congenital transmission

Congenital transmission (passing from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding) cases are rare. However, it is still a cause of HPV among infants

It can happen when the baby comes in contact with genital warts during childbirth or placenta and amniotic fluid during pregnancy. 

Fact:
HPV infection is associated with over 311,000 Cervical Cancer deaths annually.

Risk factors

couple holding handsSource: Signature_images
Physical contact

Most sexually active people indeed fall prey to this STI once in a lifetime. However, certain factors play a deciding role in determining the subjection to HPV.

Some crucial ones are:

  • Sexual partners: More numbers of partners increase the vulnerability to several types of HPV. A person can be at risk despite having one sexual partner if the other person involved has a history of multiple sex partners.
  • Sexual preference: Studies have suggested that men who have sex with men are more likely to get HPV than those who have sex with women
  • Physical contact: Besides sexual contact, even casual contact with places exposed to warts or HPV may increase the chances of getting the infection. Self-inoculation (transferring infection from one part to another by touching) is one such transmission method
  • Age: HPV is prevalent in different age groups and genders. Women record a peak time of acquiring the infection during their teenage, while men acquire it a little later
  • Weak immunity: People with weak immunity caused by certain medications, post-operation, or STDs like HIV /AIDS are at a higher risk of acquiring HPV
  • Lack of knowledge: Awareness and knowledge about a medical problem also impact the likelihood of being affected by it. A study proved that HPV among men is common due to a lack of vaccination and knowledge

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HPV prevention

Treatment is the main focus in case someone acquires an infection or a disease. However, the first approach should be to prevent it.

Certain methods to ensure lowering the chances of HPV infection are:

  • HPV vaccine: Gardasil 9 is the FDA-recommended HPV vaccine that ensures up to 97 percent efficiency if used before acquiring the infection. It is best suited for 9-26 years old
Warning:
Untreated high risk HPV infection can turn into cancer. One must consult a doctor in case symptoms like warts and lesions appear.
  • Use of protection during sex: Mechanical barriers like condoms and dental dams prevent direct skin-to-skin contact during sex. So, it lowers transmission risk
  • Improving immunity: Better immunity helps fight HPV infection and recovery. A diet rich in folate, vitamin B12, and probiotics is helpful in HPV prevention
  • Quitting smoking: Smoking is an additional risk factor for HPV. One must refrain from smoking to avoid becoming an easy target for the infection
  •  Limiting the number of sexual partners: As multiple partners increase the risk of HPV, one should avoid it and also choose mindfully while getting intimate with anyone

Conclusion

HPV, or Human Papillomavirus, is an asymptomatic STI caused by more than 100 different types of HPV strains that attack the epithelial tissue. 

HPV affects 90 percent of sexually active men and 80 percent of sexually active women once in their lifetime.

It mainly spreads from sexual contact, but skin-to-skin or skin-to-mucous contact can also spread the infection. In a few cases, it can pass from mother to infant.

It usually goes away in two years without causing health issues, but sometimes, it may lead to problems like cancer or warts.

Factors like multiple sex partners, weak immune system, and age increase the risk of getting HPV.

To prevent the infection, one must get vaccinated by 26. In case of getting HPV, seek help from a medical expert for treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main cause of HPV?

The primary cause of HPV is the virus itself. HPV is not one virus, but a group of more than 100 types known. The primary mode of HPV transmission is sexual contact. Vaginal and anal sex with an infected person can pass the infection even if it is asymptomatic. 

What causes HPV in females?

Studies have shown that about 80 percent of females experience at least one type of HPV in their lifetime. Oral, vaginal, and anal sex are the primary causes of HPV in females. Skin-to-skin contact or congenital cases are the follow-up causes. 

Can you get HPV from fingers?

Fingers are not a prominent mode of HPV transmission, but you can still get HPV from them, especially if warts are present on them. Direct contact of skin to warts, casual or sexual (fisting or fingering),  can cause HPV.

Is there a cure for HPV?

There is no cure for HPV currently, but you can get vaccinated to shield yourself from the infection. It is advisable to get vaccinated by the age of 26 and opt for preventive measures like using condoms during sex.

Is HPV the only cause of Cervical Cancer?

HPV is a major cause of almost all Cervical Cancer, but it does not cause cancer in all  cases. HPV infection mostly clears up on its own without additional health problems. Other risk factors like HIV infection, smoking, or using tobacco increase the chances of Cervical Cancer.

Citations:
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