HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases, with 14 million Americans getting diagnosed every year. Although there is currently no cure for HPV, there are ways that people can reduce their risk of getting it.
That’s why understanding HPV is essential in helping you respond to the virus in the right way.
What is HPV
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a disease that is transmitted from person to person via skin contact. There are currently over 100 different strains of HPV, but only 14 of these are known to cause cancer (the rest are more low-risk). In many cases, HPV does not present with any symptoms and many people do not even realize that they are infected.
Currently, there is no cure for HPV.
In most cases, the virus will go away by itself with no long-term consequences, and in 90% of cases it is fully gone from the body in two years. This is because the human immune system is capable of successfully adapting by producing antibodies to fight the infection. After the body has ridded itself of an infection, it will now have more antibodies required to fight off that particular strain, but it is still vulnerable to one of the many other forms of HPV.
In situations where HPV does not go away, it can lead to significant health problems, including genital warts or cancer. Genital warts can appear in a number of different shapes on the penis, vagina or anus, and can be easily identified and treated by a doctor. Cervical cancer is the most common form of cancer caused by HPV, but the virus can also lead to other types, including cancer of the vagina, penis, anus, and throat. Cancer is often difficult to trace back to an HPV infection as it can take years for the cancer to manifest.
How HPV is spread
HPV is a sexually transmitted disease and can be passed on through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex (but most commonly through vaginal or anal sex). It is also important to note that HPV is spread even when the carrier is asymptomatic. Carriers may not know that they have the virus, as they may not have any physical symptoms to make it obvious, but they are still infectious. This is why it is so important to always use protection when engaging in any form of sexual activity that may transmit the virus.
How can I protect myself from HPV?
There are a number of ways that people can reduce their risk of contracting HPV, as well as making sure that if they do become infected, they mitigate the effects of the virus as much as possible.
Here are some of the steps people should take, in order to protect themselves from HPV:
Currently, there are multiple vaccinations for HPV in America, providing protection against infection. None of these fully vaccinate individuals against all 100 strains of the virus, but it does make them immune from strain 16 and 18, the two types of HPV that cause the majority of cervical cancer cases. It also helps to reduce (but not completely eliminate) the risk of infection of an HPV strain that causes genital warts.
One of the most common forms of HPV vaccinations is Gardasil. Full immunization involves two injections at least 6 months apart for children aged 11 to 12, but anyone older than that may require 3 injections. For the best protection, it is recommended that children get vaccinated before they are sexually active (before they are at risk of exposure), but it is available for anyone up to the age of 45.
Get screened regularly
At the moment, there are no tests that can accurately determine the presence of HPV in the body. However, there are tests that can determine whether HPV has caused cancerous or pre-cancerous cells to form in the cervix, which will lead to cancer. A pap smear is the most common screening tool used for cervical cancer, and it is designed to pick up on cancer in early stages when the chances of complete recovery are still high. Although this will not prevent any potential cases of HPV, it can
help to catch it sooner, as screenings are able to pick up on cancers caused by HPV before they would be otherwise noticeable.
In some cases, like when a pap smear returns an abnormal or unclear result, women may also be encouraged to undergo an HPV test. This is very similar to a pap smear, except it tests for the presence of HPV in the cervix, not for potentially cancerous cells or growths.
Engage in healthy sexual activity
It is estimated that most sexually active people will experience some form of HPV in their life, whether they know it or not. Because HPV is so common, the only way for people to completely protect themselves from infection is to abstain from all sexual activity. Aside from that, people should always use a condom or a dental dam as a barrier between skin-to-skin contact, significantly reducing infection risk. People are also encouraged to limit the number of sexual partners they have as much as possible, reducing the risk of getting exposed.
Eat a balanced diet and exercise often
Staying healthy by eating well and exercising may not reduce the risk of contracting HPV, but it will help the immune system’s response to the virus. Staying healthy acts as a booster for the immune system, allowing the body to fight diseases like HPV much more efficiently. By staying healthy, people are more likely to get rid of the virus faster, which reduces the risk of it developing into cancer or warts.
There are a number of supplements available that are specifically designed to provide all of the nutrients and vitamins necessary to fight HPV.
Options such as Papillex offer the body lycopene, carotenoids, B9 folate, vitamin C and E, and selenium, as well as a range of other components. These help the immune system to function, and it can also aid in helping to fight potential future infections as well.