HPV is an acronym for human papilloma virus. The American Cancer Society explains that there are approximately 100 different viruses that belong to this family. Of the 100 strains of HPV, 60 of them affect the soft tissues leading to the development of warts while the other 40 strains cause infections to the mucus membranes of the human body.
Though HPV affect both men and women, they are more frequent in women. In fact, HPV is the most common STD (sexually transmitted disease) in women. In addition to that, studies have depicted that at least 50% of sexually active women get infected with the human papilloma virus in their lifetime. Early detection and treatment is vital as the affliction can lead to cervical cancer. Here are the symptoms and causes of HPV in women.
Causes of HPV in Women
- Sexual Contact. The human papilloma virus is the chief cause of genital warts. When these warts come into contact with the skin during sexual intercourse, viruses are passed along. Experts assert that many women who contract the virus often get it through sexual contact, be it anal, vaginal or oral. Wearing a condom during intercourse can help prevent transmission but this is often not foolproof.
- Cuts. As aforementioned, HPV is often transmitted via ski-to-skin contact. However, there are some instances that make a woman more susceptible to the virus. For example, an opening on the surface of the skin, be it a wound, scrape or cut is a potential entrance point for the HPV. If a woman has a cut on her lips and she kisses a man who is infected, then she will be contract the disease. It’s important to note that genital warts are not the only way that a woman can contract the virus. Common warts such as plantar and flat warts also contribute in the transmission of HPV.
- Mother to Infant Transmission. Although subtle, an infected mother can pass on the virus to her infant during childbirth. There is a high chance of transmission when the infected mother delivers vaginally and the baby skin cracks or gets bruised paving way for the human papilloma virus. The genitals of the baby can get infected with the virus and under severe circumstances the upper respiratory system gets seriously infected.
- Hormonal Balance. Anxiety, stress and depression can affect the secretion of hormones and thus cause hormonal imbalance. When the hormones produced by the adrenal glands are disturbed, the body immune system gets compromised. This creates the perfect environment for the activity of the human papilloma virus. The use of birth control pills can also disturb the balance between estrogen and progesterone and thus catalyze the infection.
Symptoms of HPV in Women
In women, HPV go through a period of dormancy where they depict no symptoms. They can stay in these stage for very long (years) but when it gets the right trigger, it proceeds to causing a break out. Here are some of the symptoms that a woman might experience.
Lesions and Warts. HPV commonly manifests itself as genital lesions or warts. These cauliflower-like growths appear near the anus, on the vulva or even in the vagina. The warts are often in clusters and can cause a burning or itching sensation. In addition to that, warts are mainly benign but if the condition is unattended to, the HPV causes mutation in the human cell DNA, leading to cervical cancer.
- Bleeding. There are strains of HPV that present symptoms such as unusual vaginal bleeding and heavy menstrual bleeding. This often happens when the warts caused by HPV become malignant.
The importance of visiting a gynecologist every once in a while cannot be stressed enough. However, if you notice anything unusual, you should immediately go for check up. In most cases, a pap smear will definitely help you to detect the infection.