HPV Types and Common Infections That They Cause

HPV Types and Common Infections That They Cause

The human papillomaviruses- or HPV- is a virus that only affects humans. In the US, nearly 80 million people are having HPV in the body. And there are about 14 million people newly infected with the virus each year. HPV is considered to be the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). Almost all sexually active people will have this virus at some point in their lives. HPV is highly contagious. The virus can spread easily through sexual intercourse and by skin-to-skin contact. Here is what you need to know.

HPV comes into 2 main types: low-risk and high-risk

There are more 150 different types of HPV, which infect humans. Most HPV types cause warts on the skin, which are usually harmless. But some can affect the genital area, leading to genital warts, and some can cause cancers.  

This virus is categorized as either low-risk or high risk.

1. Low-risk HPV types

Low-risk HPV can cause warts on or around the genital and anal area. The warts can also grow in or around the mouth and throat.

In women, genital warts can be found on the vagina, vulva, anus or cervix. In men, they may appear on the penis, scrotum and in or around the anus.

HPV types 6 and 11 are the two most common types of low-risk HPV. They can be responsible for 90 percent of all cases of genital warts.

Low-risk HPV types have no association with cancer.

2. High-risk HPV types

High-risk HPV can cause abnormal cell changes on the cervix, leading to cervical cancer. Some can also progress into other types of cancer. There are more than 12 different types of high-risk HPV. But only HPV types 16 and 18 have been linked to most cases of cancer. The cancer may involve the vagina, vulva, cervix, anus, penis, mouth and throat.

HPV is so common and dangerous. But the good news is that the virus can clear up on its own within 2 years. To do this, you need to keep your immune system strong. In fact, many people with high-risk HPV eliminate the virus out of their body and don’t develop cancer.

Read more: HPV Tests and Pap Tests: How to Read These Test Results

HPV is categorized as either low-risk or high risk

HPV is categorized as either low-risk or high risk

Common infections linked to HPV types

1. Skin warts

About 75% of HPV types infect skin cells, leading to warts on various parts of the body. These warts are usually benign, but can cause embarrassment. Skin warts can commonly be seen in the following areas.

  • on the hands, fingers or elbows (common warts)
  • on feet (plantar warts)
  • on the face, thighs, arms, legs or beard area (flat warts)
  • on or around the neck, mouth or nose (filiform warts)

Duct tape or topical creams (salicylic acid) can help remove these skin warts. If your warts do not respond to these treatments, ask your doctor about surgical removal.

Read more: Natural Remedies for Warts

Warts on hands

Warts on hands

2. Genital warts

Most genital warts have been linked to HPV types 6 and 11. They can cause pain, itching and discomfort to the affected area. The warts can be small, pink, red or flesh-colored. They can be rough to the touch and resemble a cauliflower. Genital warts can occur individually or in clusters. They are contagious and can spread easily though oral, vaginal and anal sex.

Treatment for genital warts includes Vidarox, Aldara, Condylox or TCA. If these creams do not work, ask a doctor about minor surgery to remove your warts. Cryosurgery, electrocautery and laser are common surgical removals for genital warts.

Read more: Can You Get Genital Warts from a Toilet Seat?

Genital wart symptoms

Genital wart signs and symptoms

3. Cervical dysplasia

HPV can also cause abnormal cell changes on a woman’s cervix, called cervical dysplasia. This is a precancerous condition of HPV infections. If left untreated, cervical dysplasia can progress into cervical cancer. The condition has no symptoms, but you can identify it by getting a Pap test. So, women ages 21 to 30 should have a Pap test every 3 years to early detect cervical dysplasia.

Cervical dysplasia can be treated by surgery or other techniques.

4. Cervical cancer

When HPV infects to deeper tissues of the cervix, it causes cancer. Women in their mid 50s are usually diagnosed with cervical cancer as it needs many years to develop. Apart from HPV types 16 and 18, HPV types 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58 can contribute to this cancer as well. Symptoms include pelvic pain, abnormal vaginal discharge or bleeding and kidney failure.

If you suspect you have the infection, go for cervical screening and get HPV vaccination.

Read more: Daily Stress May Increase Your Risk of Cervical Cancer

Apart from HPV types 16 and 18, HPV types 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58 can contribute to cervical cancer

Apart from HPV types 16 and 18, HPV types 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58 can contribute to cervical cancer

5. Throat cancer

Smoking and alcohol are the major causes of throat cancer. But, HPV can also lead to this dangerous cancer.

Throat cancer occurs when HPV spreads to your mouth through oral sex. So if you have multiple oral sex partners, you will be more likely to develop throat cancer.

Symptoms include sore throat, persistent cough, trouble swallowing and change in voice. If you think you may have the infection, make an appointment with your doctor immediately.

Throat cancer can be fatal. But depending on the stage of your cancer, treatment can help.

6. Other cancers

Some types of HPV can be found to be linked to other types of cancers, such as:

  • Vulvar cancer
  • Vaginal cancer
  • Anal cancer
  • Penile cancer

Risk factors include smoking, unsafe sex, high number of sexual partners and late diagnosis.

Read more: Is It Possible to Heal HPV with Foods and Diet?

Foods to eat for healthy cervix, preventing cervical cancer

Foods to eat for healthy cervix, which helps prevent cervical cancer

Although most HPV types are harmless, some can be life-threatening. So to reduce your risk of getting HPV infections, it’s important to take the following tips:

  • Receive the HPV vaccine before onset of sexual activity
  • Use condoms every time you have sex
  • Avoid oral sex
  • Limit your number of sexual partners
  • Stop smoking
  • Reduce alcohol intake
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle
  • Keep regular visits to your doctor


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