Doctors use a cytotoxic or a physically ablative mode of action for this purpose. Interferons have antiviral, antiproliferative, and immunomodulatory activities. However, these have not yet translated into a high level of cure rates against warts. With all the treatments currently available, recurrent warts are common.
What is a genital HPV infection?
Genital HPV infection is a sexually transmitted disease caused by human papillomavirus. HPV is the name of a group of viruses that includes more than 100 different strains or types. More than 30 of these are sexually transmitted, able to infect the genital area of men and women including the skin of the penis, vulva, or anus, and the linings of the vagina, cervix, or rectum. Most of the infected will not have any symptoms, and will eventually clear the infection on their own. Some of these viruses, however, are high-risk types, and able to cause abnormal Pap tests. They may also lead to cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, anus, or penis. Others viruses are low-risk types, and they may cause mild Pap test abnormalities or genital warts (single or multiple growths or bumps that appear in the genital area). In some cases, those growths are cauliflower shaped.
How common is HPV?
Approximately 20 million people are diagnosed with HPV at this moment. At least 50 percent of sexually active men and women acquire a genital HPV infection at some point in their lives especially those sexually active. By the age of 50, at least 80 percent of women will have acquired genital HPV infection and about 2 million Americans get a new genital HPV infection each year.
How do people get infected with HPV?
The types of HPV that infect the genital area can spread primarily through genital contact. Most HPV infections have no signs or symptoms. Therefore, while unaware that they are infected, people can transmit the virus to a sex partner. Rarely, a pregnant woman can pass HPV to her baby during vaginal delivery, but the baby will very rarely develop warts in the throat or voice box.
Signs and symptoms of HPV
Most people suffering from a genital HPV infection do not know it, as most infections are silent. The virus lives in the skin or mucous membranes and usually causes no symptoms, although some people get visible genital warts, or have pre-cancerous changes in the cervix, vulva, anus, or penis. Very rarely, HPV infection could result in anal or genital cancers. Genital warts usually appear as soft, moist, pink, or flesh-colored swellings. Most commonly, patients report these warts in the genital area. They can be raised or flat, single or multiple, small or large. They can appear on the vulva, in or around the vagina or anus, on the cervix, penis, scrotum, groin, or thigh.
After sexual contact with an infected person, warts may appear within weeks or months. As mentioned earlier, for some people warts may not appear at all. A doctor will diagnose genital warts by visual inspection. Visible warts could be removed by self-applied medications, or by treatments performed by a health care provider. Some choose to forego treatment to see if the warts will disappear on their own, because no treatment regimen for genital warts is obviously better than any other, and there is no one-treatment regimen ideal for all cases.
How is HPV infection diagnosed?
Most women get diagnosed with HPV based on abnormal Pap tests. A Pap test is the primary cancer-screening tool for cervical cancer or pre-cancerous changes in the cervix. Many of these pre-cancerous changes relate to HPV. In addition, a specific test is available to detect HPV DNA in women, and it is a commonly used diagnostic method in women with mild Pap test abnormalities. The results of HPV DNA testing can help health care providers decide if further tests or treatments are necessary for the infection. On the other hand, no HPV tests are available for men.
Is there a cure for HPV infection?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for at this time. However, it is important to note that in most women the infection goes away on its own, without special treatment. That is why many women are seeking natural treatment for HPV infections. The treatments provided are directed at the changes in the skin or mucous membrane caused by an HPV infection.
Is there a connection between HPV and cervical cancer?
All types of HPV can cause mild Pap test abnormalities that do not have serious consequences. Approximately 1 in 3 identified genital HPV types can lead, although in rare cases, to the development of cervical cancer. Research has shown that 90 percent of women with cervical HPV infection become undetectable within two years. Although only a small proportion of women have a persistent infection, infection with high-risk types of HPV is the main risk factor for getting cervical cancer. The good news is that Pap test can detect pre-cancerous and cancerous cells on the cervix. Regular Pap testing and careful medical follow-up, with treatment if necessary, can help ensure that pre-cancerous changes in the cervix caused by an HPV infection do not develop into cervical cancer. Most women who develop invasive cervical cancer have not had regular cervical cancer screening.
What is cervical dysplasia?
When a woman goes to a clinic or her health care provider for a Pap smear, they are screening the cells on her cervix. The main purpose is to make sure that there are no abnormal or precancerous changes. If the Pap test results show such a cell change, it is dubbed cervical dysplasia. Other common terms the health care provider may use include abnormal cell changes, precancerous cells changes, CIN (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia), SIL (squamous intraepithelial lesions), and warts on the cervix. All of these terms have a similar meaning - the doctor has detected an abnormality. Most of the time these cell changes are due to HPV infection.
Just because a woman has cervical dysplasia, it does not necessarily mean she will get cervical cancer. It means that her health care provider will want to monitor closely her cervix every so often. The doctor should also prescribe treatment to prevent further cell changes that could become cancerous over time if left unchecked.
HPV is a very common virus, and most women with HPV do not develop cervical cancer at all. Cervical cancer is a slow-growing condition that usually takes years to progress, which is why screening on a regular basis is important. Screening can catch any potential problems before they progress.
Treatment of HPV and cervical dysplasia
Currently, there is no treatment to cure HPV since there is no cure for the virus at this point. However, there are several treatment options available these days for treating the abnormal cells. Sometimes treatment may not even be necessary for mild cervical dysplasia, since these cells can heal alone, and the health care provider might just want to monitor the cervix. HPV may be in a latent state, but it is unknown whether it is totally gone or just undetectable. The goal of any treatment will be to remove all abnormal cells. This may also end up removing most of the cells with the HPV in them as well. If the abnormal cells are treated, or if they have healed on their own, it the risk of transmission to a sexual partner may be reduced.
When choosing what treatment to use, the health care provider will consider many things, such as location of the abnormal cells, size of the lesions on the cervix, and degree or severity of the Pap smear results. The treatment also depends on the degree or severity of the colposcopy and biopsy results, HPV test results, age and pregnancy status, or previous treatment history. There is a variety of treatments for cervical dysplasia:
- Cryotherapy, or freezing the cells with liquid nitrogen
- LEEP, short for loop electrosurgical excision procedure
- Conization, or cone biopsy may also be a possible treatment
- Laser is not as widely used today due to a high cost, lack of availability, and lack of doctors with appropriate training. That is why LEEP is more common in treatment of cervical dysplasia.
Some doctors even recommend no treatment at all, since mild abnormal cell changes may resolve without treatment. The health care provider may just monitor the cervix by either doing a colposcopy, repeat Pap testing, or a test for HPV to control this condition.
Natural treatments of HPV and cervical dysplasia
Vitamins that might help are beta-carotene, folic acid and selenium, so you should make sure you are getting plenty of those. The vitamins do not cure the dysplasia but aid your immune system and help keep the cells from turning cancerous. This will give you time to see if you can heal yourself or not.
Echinacea, goldenseal, and shiitake Mushrooms are also helpful in some cases. Some patients will be adviced to do a daily douche with a mix of one-teaspoon white vinegar, one-teaspoon liquid beta-carotene, and one-quart warm water. For some patients a herb-vitamin called Beta-Mannan is achieving remarkable results, boasting a 95% cure rate for cervical dysplasia.