What is HPV

Did you know that warts are caused by the contraction of Human Papilloma Virus or an HPV infection? There are over 100 different kinds of warts, and they are all caused by various forms of HPV. Over 40 strains of HPV have been identified, and they all result in the growth of warts. Some warts cause no real problems and may only be embarrassing, while others can cause an individual severe discomfort and pain.

All HPV infections are contracted when the virus enters the blood stream, but this can happen for any number of reasons. The most common forms of HPV are passed through skin to skin contact with an already infected individual. Any small cut or abrasion to the skin can openly expose your blood stream and make contraction easier. One may never even realize they’ve contracted the virus, as the body’s immune system often fights it off before any warts are able to form, and several warts are hardly even noticeable. Though rare, it is also possible for a mother to transmit HPV through pregnancy to her infant. When this happens, a child could develop warts in the genitals or upper respiratory system. Probably the most embarrassing and painful form of HPV to contract would be genital HPV, as this is only transferred through sexual intercourse.

The most severe forms of HPV can lead to respiratory complications or even cancer. Should warts form anywhere within the upper respiratory system- the tongue, mouth, nose, tonsils, soft palate, and larynx- an intense infection could result in severe breathing difficulties. There are several forms of HPV that could cause these problems, but there are only two strains of HPV known for causing cancer. These can contribute to the development of cancer in several locations, the most common being the anus, genitals, or upper respiratory tract.

While the different forms of warts are many, they all fall within one of three categories- common warts, plantar warts, or genital warts. Common warts are, as may be deduced from the name, the most common and the hardest to prevent. One should avoid picking at already present warts and biting their nails in order to prevent them from spreading, and see a doctor about removal. Plantar warts most often affect the feet and are very painful. Maintaining good feet hygiene is key in the prevention of contracting these strains of HPV. Genital warts are rarely caused by anything other than sexual intercourse, so practicing safe sex and reducing one’s number of sexual partners will help in preventing the contraction of this particular strain.

There are a number of creams and chemical treatments used for the removal of warts, but one should consult with a doctor before choosing one, as different creams may have a greater affect on certain strains of HPV and can even cause severe pain or irritation of used on the wrong ones. In some cases, surgical removal may be more desirable, and this can be accomplished by simply cutting out the infected area, freezing the warts with liquid nitrogen, burning the warts with electrocautery, or laser surgery.