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HPV (human papillomavirus) is a virus that can be sexually transmitted, cause the development of warts on the skin, as well as lesions of the genitourinary system (anogenital warts and cervical cancer).

HPV is a tiny DNA-containing viral particle measuring about 55 nm in diameter. The virus belongs to the papovavirus family, papillomavirus group.

According to some reports, the prevalence of HPV reaches 95% among people of reproductive age. In the United States, papillomavirus infection is the most common sexually transmitted viral disease.

Papillomavirus is a highly contagious virus the likelihood of contracting infection through contact with the virus is very high. Incubation period infection ranges from 3 weeks to 8 months (most often – 3 months).

More than 100 different types of HPV are currently known. And only some of them show their presence in the body with various symptoms. In other cases, the viral infection proceeds latently (latently) and is an accidental finding during the examination.

HPV is found on the skin, as well as on the oral mucosa, on the conjunctiva of the eyes, in the esophagus, bronchi and bladder.

Papillomavirus infection can spontaneously heal. According to the World Health Organization, in 50-60% of cases, superficial lesions of the human papillomavirus (located inside the epithelium and not penetrating into the deeper layers of the organ) disappear on their own within 2-3 years if there are no aggravating factors.

Aggravating factors include:

  • age over 30
  • infection with several types of HPV
  • current or previous vaginal warts
  • associated urinary tract infection
  • chronic somatic diseases

Meanwhile, there are types of HPV that reliably cause the development of cervical cancer. These are high risk HPV types (16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59, and 68). It is on them that the attention of scientists around the world is directed.

Read more: How does
papillomavirus infection

Papillomavirus infection: clinical manifestations

The human papillomavirus is capable of causing the proliferation of epithelial cells. On the skin, this is manifested by the appearance of warts, which cause only a cosmetic defect and do not harm health. Warts are contagious, can be transmitted by shaking hands, touching, and so on. But, as a rule, they pass on their own.

On the skin and mucosa of the genitourinary organs, HPV causes the formation of extensive growths of an elastic consistency, resembling a “cauliflower” or “cockscomb” in shape. These are warts (papillomas). Increasing in size, they interfere with normal defecation, make sexual life impossible. They are easily injured, bleed and cause a secondary bacterial infection. Condylomas rarely become malignant.

The most dangerous manifestation of HPV is precancerous and cancerous changes in the cervix. In most cases, cervical cancer is the result of HPV activity.

Read more: Diagnosis and treatment

HPV: diagnosis

For timely diagnosis of human papillomavirus infection, every woman should be examined by a gynecologist at least once every six months.

To detect changes in the mucous membrane of the cervix, cytological study. However, the cytological method does not always have the necessary sensitivity, and is also ineffective in case of latent infection.

In these cases, the diagnosis is made using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or HPV Digene test. These studies make it possible to reliably detect viral DNA and determine the degree of oncogenicity even with a minimal amount of virus in the body. At the moment, these are the most accurate, but also the most expensive diagnostic methods.

In the case of positive results, methods of a more detailed examination are used.

These include colposcopy (examination of the cervix under high magnification) and biopsy (taking a piece of altered tissue for analysis) with further histological examination of the material. In addition, it is important to examine all sexual partners for the presence of the virus.

Prevention and treatment

For non-specific HPV prevention, it is recommended to reduce the influence of risk factors, which include early onset of sexual activity, pregnancy, childbirth and abortion before 18 years of age, a large number of sexual partners, neglect of barrier methods of contraception, smoking and alcoholism.

For the specific prevention of infection with the four most dangerous types of HPV in terms of the development of cervical cancer, it is used the Gardasil vaccine.

During treatment and for a year after its completion, you must use a condom.

HPV treatment is carried out in two directions:

Removal of altered cells and warts (electrocoagulation, laser therapy, cryotherapy, chemodestruction, surgical treatment, radio wave surgery).

Destruction of the virus in the body (the use of cytostatics, antiviral agents, restorative therapy).

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