HPV Types and Signs You Should Never Ignore
Can you spot an HPV infection if you’ve caught it? And what do signs like genital wartsmean? Let’s find out.
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Woke up with an itchy sensation down under? Worried after seeing small, bumpy warts where earlier there was smooth, clean skin? Before you panic and try to recall every infection you learned about in school, hold on a minute. We’re here to tell you that it's probably not herpes, nor any other condition ever taught in biology class. The virus you’re looking at, may be Human Papillomavirus.
How do we know? Because more than 90% of anogenital warts are caused by low-risk types of HPV (types 6 or 11). But what is HPV in the first place? And how many HPV types are out there? Let’s find out.
HPV Types and Their Risks
HPV is not a single virus but a family of viruses with over 200 distinct types. These viruses can infect various parts of the body, such as the genital area. The virus is primarily spread through sexual contact.
HPV types can be broadly categorised into low-risk and high-risk HPV strains based on their potential to cause health problems such as cancer.
1. Low-Risk HPV types: Low-risk HPV types are the primary culprits behind genital warts. They may also cause minor, non-cancerous growths on the genital and anal areas.
- HPV types 6 and 11: More than 90% of cases of anogenital warts are caused by low-risk HPV types 6 or 11.
2. High-Risk HPV types: These are associated with various cancers, including cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancer. They can also lead to precancerous changes in the affected tissues
- HPV types 16 and 18: Types 16 and 18 together account for about 83.2% of invasive cervical cancers in India.
- HPV types 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58: These types can also be linked to cervical cancers and other HPV-related cancers.
Signs of HPV to Look Out For
HPV often goes unnoticed because many people infected with the virus show no symptoms at all. However, when HPV signs do show themselves, they can vary depending on the type of HPV and the part of the body affected.
1. Genital Warts:
Low-risk HPV types 6 and 11 can cause anogenital warts. These warts may appear as small or large growths around the genitals and anus. They can be raised or flat, and may cluster together to form a cauliflower-shaped growth. They are usually painless, but can be itchy or uncomfortable.
2. Cervical Changes:
High-risk HPV types, such as HPV 16 and 18, are associated with cervical cancer. These types can lead to low-grade and high-grade cervical cell abnormalities.
While HPV symptoms are largely the same in men and women, there are some minute differences. Let’s examine them in detail.
HPV Signs in Men:
1. Genital warts: HPV in men may cause warts around the genitals. These warts may be raised or flat, small or large, and they can appear as single growths or clusters.
2. Anal warts: Men who engage in anal intercourse are more likely to develop warts around the anus or inside the anal canal.
HPV Signs in Women:
1. Anal and genital warts: In women, HPV may lead to warts on the vulva, vagina, cervix, or around the anus. These warts can range from raised to flat, and they may exhibit a cauliflower-like appearance.
2. Abnormal Pap test results: HPV infection can cause changes in cervical cells, which can be detected through a Pap test. These changes may indicate the potential development of cervical cancer or other cervical abnormalities.
Understanding the different HPV types and their associated symptoms is a vital step in safeguarding your health. While some types of HPV may lead to uncomfortable growths like genital warts, others can cause severe health issues, including HPV-related cancers. By staying informed, getting the HPV vaccine, practising safe sex, and undergoing regular screenings, you can take control of your health and help reduce the risk of HPV-related complications. Remember, knowledge is power when it comes to HPV prevention and protection.
Disclaimer: HPV - Human Papillomavirus. This information is intended for awareness purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your doctor.
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IN-HPV-00515 | 12/1/2024 - 10/11/2025