Human papillomavirus (HPV): can it be cured?

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Human Papilloma Virus infection, more commonly known by the acronym HPV or HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world. The form of clinical presentation of this virus depends to a great extent on the immune status of the patient. Some people with the infection have no signs or symptoms of any kind, other people can develop genital warts, while some have changes at the cellular level that can lead to certain types of cancer.

Depending on how this infection affects each patient, the treatment to which they will be subjected will change. But, can this disease really be cured? Today, in this article, we are going to help you solve this question with the help of gynecologist.

What is the Human Papilloma Virus

  1. The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a virus that is transmitted by direct contact between epithelia (skin and mucous membranes). There are more than 120 types of HPV identified and it is a disease that can affect both women and men.
  2. HPV infection is the most prevalent sexually transmitted disease. In Spain, 30-50% of women under the age of 30 are positive at any given time and almost all of those who are sexually active are positive at some point in their lives. Among women over 30 years of age, the percentage drops to 15%. It is also important to emphasize, as Dr. Luis Serrano points out, that since it is a virus that is spread through contact between epithelia, it can also be transmitted between people of the same sex.
  3. Among the consequences of suffering from this virus is the development of genital warts. Warts are easily identifiable and effectively treated, but they can also cause microscopic cellular atypia that could evolve to malignancy over time in various locations. In the specific case of men, it could affect from the penis, to the throat, passing through the anus.

Symptoms and diagnosis

  • A priori, HPV infection does not produce symptoms. In fact, on many occasions the infection is eliminated without any type of alteration. Other times, around 3-6 months after infection, genital warts, also known as condylomas, occur, which have no potential for malignant degeneration.
  • Atypical epithelial lesions are more silent and can sometimes evolve into a malignant pathology over the years. For this reason, primary prevention is so important, that is, vaccination, secondary prevention (currently cytological screening), as well as the use of substances that contribute to maintaining the vaginal flora that presents an immune response against the virus.
  • Regarding the diagnosis of lesions, this is based on cytology, colposcopy, biopsy and, in recent times, the use of molecular markers.

Can HPV be cured?

  1. This question is not so easy to answer and largely depends on the extent to which the patient has been affected by HPV. It must be taken into account in the first place that there is a difference between curing the Human Papilloma Virus and healing the lesions caused by it. Having said this, two statements can be made:
  2. Normally, HPV tends to heal spontaneously in 80 or 90% of cases. Within 1 to 2 years of contracting the virus, most people’s immune systems are able to destroy it and completely eliminate it from the body.
  3. The lesions caused by HPV, whether they are warts or cervical tumors, can be cured through medical treatment. Always without forgetting that curing injuries does not mean eliminating the virus from the body.
  4. As the gynecologist Luis Serrano explains, genital warts are easily treated with pharmacological, physical or surgical means, although, depending on the personal conditions of the patient, the risk of relapse is not low.
  5. Precursor lesions of the lower genital tract (cervix, vulva and vagina) and anus can be treated with great efficacy using non-invasive procedures, diagnosed by the usual techniques of secondary prevention, HPV determination, cytology, colposcopy and biopsy.
  6. If, despite everything, we are faced with invasive pathology, the conduct will depend on the stage of the cancer, being able to use radical surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. To complement these preventive and therapeutic strategies, there are some products which helps re-epithelialize the cervix, improve local vaginal immune status, and stabilize the vaginal microbiota. The first data available indicate that this triple joint action favors the clearance – disappearance – of HPV in the vaginal area.

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