What is Human Papillomavirus

Human papilloma virus is a highly widespread virus that causes various diseases including serious ones in both women and men. Nearly a hundred of different types of papillomavirus have been known up to date and different types of this virus can cause different diseases. The most dangerous types of papillomavirus are those that have high oncological risk – i.e. the types of viruses which have the greatest ability to cause cancer of the genitals. The most typical manifestations of papilloma virus are warts, condylomas, dysplasia (that is precancer), and cervix carcinoma (cancer).

How is Papillomavirus Contracted

Papillomavirus is transmitted from a person to person through direct contacts with affected areas, during sexual intercourse whatever sex was – vaginal, anal or oral, kisses, skin contacts and also through skin cuts. The virus can also be inherited by a baby from the mother. The virus easily spreads from one part of the body to another. For example, from the genital area, the virus can move to the perianal area or settle on the skin on the buttocks, stomach or legs.

Incubation Period

The incubation period (the time from the moment of the infecting by the pathogen to the first disease symptoms appearance) is on the average 2-3 months, but in some cases can be reduced to 2-3 weeks and increase to several years. So the incubation period of papillomavirus has very indefinite boundary which creates difficulties in diagnosing this disease.

Symptoms of Papillomavirus

Most often the papillomavirus exists in the blood of the carrier asymptomatically, if the immune defense of the body is sufficient to prevent its excessive activation. The symptoms of the papilloma virus appear when the patient has problems with the immunity. In this case, human papillomavirus accumulates in large quantities on a particular area of the skin or mucosa and change the function of epithelial cells. As a result the signs of the human papillomavirus in the form of warts and pappilomas appear.

In Men

Papillomavirus usually affect areas around genitals, namely penis, anus or even rectum and scrotum.

In Women

Papillomavirus manifests itself as warts which appear on vulvar lips, vagina, cervix, and like in men, on anus or rectum.

See all STD Symptoms.

Diagnosing HPV

The main danger of Human Papillomavirus is the fact that the hidden disease may be asymptomatic, and at the same time its carrier will continue spreading the disease. Lesions of the cervix uteri are often accompanied by anogenital warts, so the appearance of the condylomas on vulva in women, penis in men and anus are alarming signs.

It should be pointed out that women are more susceptible to pathosis caused by Papillomavirus than men and that some types of it might result in cancer of the cervix, so it is women who should pay special attention to their health and any symptoms suspicious for HPV.

Each woman must have Pap smear tested regularly to detect cervical cancer even if there are no symptoms. Samples of cells are taken from the cervix for laboratory analysis which is performed to check for pathological changes in cervical cells that indicate the cancer or diseases that can cause it.

As for men, no special diagnosing is needed because Human Papillomavirus does not result in serious health problems in them.

Treatment of Papillomavirus. Is it curable?

Currently, there are no single international standards for the treatment of diseases related to HPV. The applying of destructive methods of removal of external symptoms of papilloma virus is the most frequently used method to cure this disease.

Treatment of Male HPV Infections

As a rule, men do not need special treatment for Papillomavirus because it does not serious consequence in them.

Treatment of Female HPV Infections

If a patient has warts caused by non-cancer-related type of the HPV, she can choose between waiting until the warts go away without medical intervention and local applying of medications like salicylic or trichloracetic acid, podofilox or imiquimod. If such remedies do not help to get rid of the warts, a patient may opt to remove the problems using destructive methods such as Cryotherapy, lacustration, diathermoconization, electrocautery or cervical amputation.

If abnormal cervical cells which may turn into cancer cells are identified in a woman, she must be followed up by a doctor. The earlier the problem is detected, the easier its treatment can be.

Vaccines against HPV

Although most types of Papillomavirus do not cause serious consequence and do not need to be treated. Taking a vaccine against HPV for prophylactic purposes can save you against possible infection.

Today, there are only two vaccines against 16 and 18 HPV types, which are known to cause at least 70% of all types of cervical cancers. These vaccines also provide some cross-protection against other less widespread types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. One of these vaccines also protects against HPV types 6 and 11, which cause anogenital warts. Vaccines against the human papillomavirus contain the main capsid proteins L1, which assemble into virus-like particles (VLP). These particles do not contain viral genetic material, and therefore are not infectious. Specialists advise young people to take the HPV vaccine before they begin their sexual life.

Vaccine Safety

Cervical cancer, caused by papilloma virus, is the fourth most widespread of female cancer type. Currently there are no effective and proven methods of treating HPV infection, so the only way to prevent it is vaccination.

The results of clinical trials indicate that all excising vaccines against HPV are completely safe and very effective in the prevention of 16 and 18 HPV infections. The vaccines are more effective if they are taken prior to HPV exposure. Therefore, it is preferable to vaccinate young people before their first sexual contact. But you should know that vaccination does not treat HPV or HPV-related diseases (such as cancer) it is only a preventive measure that protects from getting infected with HPV.

Vaccine Side Effects

No obvious side effects of the vaccines against HPV have been registered: they are well tolerated, because they have low reactogenicity. In the first two days, the reaction on the part of the body is the same as for any other inactivated vaccine. Slight swelling, itching and redness can appear at the injection area. These effects go away on their own soon.

If Papillomavirus is Not Treated

As written before, Human Papillomavirus is a widespread infection that over 50% adult people have. It can have symptoms in the form of warts and condylomas on genitals or can be asymptomatic. Due to the fact that it can be asymptomatic, many people do not even know that they are infected. So all sexually active people should be regularly tested especially women to prevent development of cervical cancer that can be caused by some types of papillomavirus.

HPV Prevention

To prevent occurrence of Papillomavirus and development of cancer, it is better to take some measures in advance. One of them is taking vaccine. Although it does not provide a complete protection against the viral infection, it helps to prevent getting most of Papillomavirus types causing serious problems including cancer. Taking the vaccine by young people before their first sexual contact is the most reasonable way. Having one sexual partner (monogamous relationships) is another effective way to avoid infection by HPV. Using condom also decrease the risk of infection but unfortunately does not completely exclude it.

More about Human Papillomavirus Infection Prevention.


  • Is it possible to recover from HPV?

No special drugs for treatment of Papillomavirus has been developed up to date. There are vaccines that can be taken before beginning sexual life to protect you from getting infected by most types of the virus including ones causing cancer. If you have already infected, you can use one of available ways to get free of the warts including surgical one. See the list of all STDs.

  • Does Papillomavirus go away without treatment?

Only some types of Papillomavirus go away without treatment but in any case all sexually active people should undergo laboratory testing regularly to identify if they have dangerous types of the virus.

  • How long does it take to get rid of HPV?

The precise period of time required to recover from the virus is not easy to be determined, because both the time it is transmitted and incubation period are unclear.

  • What are the causes of HPV occurrence?

Human Papillomavirus is STD because it is transmitted during sexual contact, but it is not the only way of getting infected. Also kissing, petting and just contact with infected areas can be the cause of infection. It should be kept in mind that Papilloma virus is one of the most common STD.