Can HPV Kill You?
Published June 20, 2021
Have you had HPV, or do you have one right now? Chances are, you may have been infected with one or more kinds of human papillomavirus (HPV) and were just unaware of it. As a matter of fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that most people will contract at least one kind of HPV during their lifetime. Additionally, as per the CDC, 79 million people are infected with HPV right at this moment.
However, the question still stands, can HPV kill you? In this article, you will get the answer to that question along with how it is diagnosed, possible treatments, and what preventative measures you can take to avoid contracting it.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV, in most cases, causes no symptoms or health issues and usually resolves on its own. It is a virus that infects the skin cells and has been found in over 100 identified types. This comprises low-risk kinds associated with genital warts and high-risk ones related to precancer and cancer.
When high-risk HPV types persist, precancerous lesions and malignancy may develop. Cervical cancer is nearly always caused by HPV, but it is avoidable. Screening by Pap and HPV testing can identify precancerous abnormalities that can be treated to avert cancer risk or development.
Aside from that, HPV can also cause anal cancer in men and women, a malignancy that affects around 5,530 women and 2,770 men each year, killing 760 women and 520 men, and is currently increasing. Notably, HPV infection of anal skin cells does not require anal intercourse.
Additionally, HPV infection can also cause:
- genital warts
- recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, a rare condition in which warts grow in the throats of babies born through the birth canal of a mother with genital warts
- other less common but potentially severe cancers, including vulvar, vaginal, and penis cancers
- oropharyngeal cancer, a kind of head and neck cancer affecting the back of the throat, the base of the tongue, and the tonsils
Types of HPV
Below the high-risk HPV subtypes that are most likely to cause cancer:
HPV-16 and HPV-18 account for 70% of cervical cancer cases, while HPV-16 accounts for 90% of anal cancer cases and has also been implicated in the development of several oropharyngeal cancers.
Two HPV kinds—HPV-6 and 11—are responsible for 90% of genital warts, even though they pose essentially no risk of malignancy and are usually referred to as low-risk types.
How does HPV spread?
HPV is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact with an infected area. Subclinical infections occur when the virus lives in the skin without creating symptoms. As a result, most people who have HPV are unaware they have it or can spread it.
Genital warts occur approximately six weeks to three months after a person is exposed to a partner who has a low-risk genital wart–causing strain of HPV, such as HPV 6 or 11. However, the majority of individuals infected with HPV 6 or 11 do not develop genital warts.
The most prevalent HPV infections are caused by high-risk strains and do not manifest themselves visually. These infections are discovered exclusively through HPV tests or abnormal cell changes detected during Pap tests.
Because human papillomavirus (HPV) infections frequently cause no symptoms in men or women and are difficult to identify, you must check with a health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.
Consult your health care professional if you find warts. Additionally, you should seek an assessment if:
- You find any strange growths, bumps, or changes in the skin on or near the penis, vagina, vulva, or anus.
- You notice any elevated red, white, or darkly colored growth on the genital skin as this could be a sign of precancer and should be investigated by a health care specialist.
- You have unexplained itching, pain, or bleeding in the vaginal or anal region.
- You have a sexual partner who informs you that he or she is infected with genital HPV or has developed genital warts.
Currently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has licensed only one HPV vaccination, Gardasil 9. Along with the HPV vaccine for primary prevention, the Pap test and the HPV test are critical screening measures for women at risk of cervical cancer. Furthermore, cervical cancer death rates have fallen by more than 50% over the last 40 years due to early detection and treatment of cell changes.
As of today, there are a wide array of treatments you or your doctor could administer. Additionally, you may utilize a combination of the two. Treatments range from cryotherapy, in which the warts are frozen with liquid nitrogen, to electrocautery, in which the warts are burned off, to home-applied lotions or gels.
The purpose of treatment should be to eradicate prominent genital warts, alleviate annoying symptoms, or remove warts that restrict the birth canal in a pregnant woman.
This 0.5 or 0.15% solution or gel is an inexpensive, safe, and simple-to-use therapy option. It should be applied daily for three weeks or twice daily for three days, followed by four days of no therapy, totaling three to four weeks. Keep in mind that warts may recur following treatment.
External genital warts and perianal warts that occur around the anus are treated with this 5% cream. It is a safe, effective, and simple-to-use product. You should apply it three times a week for up to 16 weeks, and the cream works by activating the immune system to attack warts. Following treatment, warts may still return.
This is a 5% ointment containing a green tea extract that should be applied directly to warts three times daily until they vanish. Sinecatechin’s active constituents are catechins, which are found in green tea.
Consult your health care professional to choose which treatment to try. Tenderness, irritation, and localized burning are all possible side effects of all three medicines. Moreover, none of them have been determined to be safe for use during pregnancy.
Treatments By Health Care Professionals
Cryotherapy (freezing warts with liquid nitrogen)
This is a pretty affordable procedure. It is often carried out without an anesthetic and may cause considerable discomfort. Several treatments each week for up to six weeks may be necessary to eradicate all warts.
Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA) (10 to 25%) or Bichloracetic Acid (BCA) (80 to 90%)
These are two chemicals applied once a week for up to four consecutive weeks to the wart’s surface. These are stronger versions of the over-the-counter acids used to get rid of external warts. This is a safe treatment to do throughout pregnancy.
Podophyllin Resin (10 to 25%)
Due to the possibility of toxicity, this treatment is not suggested. This solution is usually applied once a week for up to four weeks. To avoid local irritation, it must be washed off after one to four hours of application. It is more likely to induce adverse effects than podofilox, a pure podophyllin resin. There is no evidence that its usage during pregnancy is safe.
Laser Therapy (with intense light to destroy warts) or Surgery (cutting off warts)
This treatment can get rid of warts in one clinic visit. However, it can be costly, and the doctor must be well-versed in these techniques. If laser therapy is not conducted correctly, it might result in burning and scarring.
Because HPV is a virus, it is determined by your immune system whether or not your warts recur. When the virus is dormant, it migrates to a deeper level of tissue, where it can survive permanently. If you’ve previously had HPV, you should watch for recurrences, which occur most frequently during the first three months following therapy.
Consuming a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and abstaining from illegal drugs, tobacco, and alcohol are all easy techniques to help maintain a healthy immune system.
While regular testing with Pap tests and HPV tests are the most effective approach to detect the virus once it has been contracted, a woman’s best move is to avoid HPV in the first place. Health experts encourage women to take one or more of the following measures to prevent pr reduce contracting the virus, which is spread by skin-to-skin contact:
- When you are intimate with a new partner, always use condoms. Proper and consistent use of latex condoms from start to finish each time you have sex can give some protection if they completely cover the area of HPV infection. Take note, however, that while condoms reduce the chance of HPV infection, they do not entirely prevent it, as HPV can infect cells anywhere on the genital area’s skin.
- Bear in mind that spermicidal foams, creams, and jellies do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, including HPV. The FDA has warned consumers that vaginal contraceptives containing nonoxynol-9 may cause increased vaginal irritation, which will increase the risk of infection as well.
- Use a dental dam, plastic wrap, or a split and flattened unlubricated condom for oral sex. During oral intercourse, these materials act as a moisture barrier between the mouth and the vagina or anus. Avoid brushing or flossing your teeth before having oral intercourse since this may cause tearing of the mouth lining, increasing your virus exposure.
- Take caution when sharing sexual devices. HPV may be spread by sexual toys placed into the vagina but not completely cleaned prior to sexual activity with your partner.
Remember that you are not alone if you have human papillomavirus (HPV). At some point in their lives, most of the reproductive-age population has been infected with one or more strains of sexually transmitted HPV.
Now that you know what HPV is, how it is spread, its symptoms, possible treatments, and how you can prevent it in general, you can reduce or completely avoid contracting it. Can HPV kill you? As long as you have a strong immune system, you can fight it. As the saying goes, “health is wealth,” so always get a regular checkup and look after yourself.
About The Author
As a professional writer at many renowned websites Krizzia Paolyn has covered a wide range of topics in many industries. Her knack for uncovering important truths and conducting thorough research on each topic she writes about has helped thousands of people across the world.