Have you heard of HPV? If not, as a woman, you should sit up and take notes. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of viruses that cause infection on the skin surface. Genital Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the world—a type that is very common in sexually active women.
According to an ICMR report, the worldwide prevalence of HPV infection among women is between 9% and 13%. This means that about 630 million women in the world have HPV. In India, HPV is more common among women between the ages of 26 and 35 years because it’s when most of them become sexually active. However, so few of these women know of the HPV vaccine and how to protect themselves, simply because of lack of awareness.
The worldwide prevalence of HPV among women is between 9% and 13%. This means that about 630 million women in the world have HPV.ICMR
The Channel 46 caught up with Dr Ankita Gharge, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist from Proactive For Her, a digital health platform which provides personalised and confidential healthcare solutions for women. Their in-house doctor tells us everything we need to know about HPV, its signs and symptoms, the diagnosis, and the life-saving HPV vaccine that can protect women from cervical cancer.
How would a woman contract an HPV infection?
You can get Human Papillomavirus (HPV) by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with somebody who has the infection, even if they are asymptomatic. While most HPV infections are asymptomatic, some symptoms of HPV infection can show after a while which makes it difficult to diagnose.
Due to its commonality, numerous specialists suggest that HPV infection ought to be viewed as an inescapable result of sexual activity. There were around 43 million HPV infections in 2018, numerous among individuals in their late teens and mid-20s.
What are some signs & symptoms you have HPV?
There are various types of HPV. While HPV infections generally show no symptoms, they may manifest themselves in the form of genital warts. Sometimes, they may show up as warts on the genital region or as an abnormal cervical smear. Genital warts are outgrowths or bumps on the vulva, vagina, cervix, penis, scrotum, urethra, anus, or thigh. They might be raised or flat warts, single or numerous, little or huge. Some HPV warts can also cluster together, framing a cauliflower-like shape.
If you do have genital warts, your primary care physician can go over treatment options with you depending on your condition. In most cases, your immune system will clear the infection, and warts will disappear.
What are the diagnostic tests to check if you have HPV?
For early diagnosis, women must get PAP screening from time to time. This is because PAP smears give early indications of changes in cells of the cervix, allowing for proactive treatment before symptoms like pain and bleeding show up. Progression from an initial HPV infection to HPV disease is commonly caused due to delayed diagnosis and the prevalence of cancerous cells. Normal Pap tests and HPV tests can help monitor you for precancerous changes to the cells of the cervix.
What are the treatment options for HPV?
There is no line of treatment for HPV that is asymptomatic. Most HPVs are normally cleared by the body’s immune system within 1-2 years. However, there is no treatment to eliminate the underlying HPV itself. HPV is a viral infection that is normally managed by your body’s immune system and can be prevented with a vaccine.
Why is the HPV vaccine important & who can get it?
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). The HPV vaccine protects against nine types of HPVs. FOGSI (The Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India) recommends that all women get the HPV vaccine between the ages of 9 and 45 years, if not already immunised.
5 Important Things You Need To Know About the HPV Vaccine:
- The vaccine is extremely effective and has minimal to no side effects
- Not just girls but boys should also take the vaccine to decrease the transmission of infection to others
- The HPV vaccine helps prevent cervical cancer, along with other types of reproductive and oral cancers among women
- Teens and young adults between 15-26 years of age will have to take three shots of the vaccine, instead of two
- People aged above 27 years should consult the doctor before taking the vaccine since they might have already been exposed to the virus, which reduces the benefits of the vaccine
While there is no real cure for HPV, regular PAP tests, HPV screening, and routine cervical cancer screening can be very helpful for sexually active women, no matter their age. Early detection is key to getting the right medication and treatment to manage your infection. In terms of prevention, practice safe sex—not just when it comes to penetration but oral sex too. Use condoms, and dental dams, and make sure you clean any toys or objects you use during sexual activity every time.
Click here to know more about Proactive For Her HPV vaccination services.