Help Protect Yourself Against HPV: A Treatment & Prevention Guide

Feb 14, 2024 5 Minute Read

HPV is one of the most prevalent viral infections out there. In fact, this virus is so easy to catch that 80% of men and women will contract it in their lifetime.

HPV is one of the most prevalent viral infections out there. In fact, this virus is so easy to catch that 80% of men and women will contract it in their lifetime.

 

The saying ‘prevention is better than cure’, rings far truer for an infection like HPV, where there is no known cure. However, while HPV infection treatment may not be a possibility, HPV prevention can be quite a simple process. Taking proactive steps toward HPV prevention can benefit your overall health.

 

But how can you protect yourself against HPV? And why can’t the infection be treated? Let’s find out.

The Human Papillomavirus

 

The Human papillomavirus, commonly known as HPV, is a virus that transmits through sexual contact. It can infect different parts of the body, such as the genital area, and the lining of the throat and mouth.

 

This virus is so common that most people who are sexually active will come into contact with it at some point in their lives. However, it does not always present symptoms, which means you may not even know you have it. When symptoms do appear, they may present as genital warts or an abnormal pap test.

Is HPV a serious infection?

 

While the virus may seem unassuming to some, every infection poses a serious health risk. In an ideal scenario, your immune system should be able to fight off the infection. But in cases where the virus does not resolve by itself, it can persist for many years. If a high-risk type of HPV persists, it can cause cell changes that may progress to cancer.

 

In fact, HPV can cause different types of cancers, including:

  • Cervical cancer
  • Vulvar cancer
  • Vaginal cancer
  • Anal cancer

 

Out of these cancers, cervical cancer poses the biggest risk, with more than 95% of cervical cancers worldwide being attributed to HPV alone.

HPV and its Types

 

HPV is not just one virus, but a group of related viruses which pose different levels of threat. Out of the 200+ types of HPV virus, there are a few common ones that can be categorised according to the health risk that they pose.

 

Low-risk HPV types: These types are mainly responsible for causing genital warts. In fact, up to 90% of cases of anal and genital warts are caused by low-risk HPV types 6 or 11.

 

High-risk HPV types:

High-risk HPV types, or oncogenic HPV types can cause several types of cancer. The 12 high-risk HPV types are: 

 

  • HPV 16
  • HPV 18 
  • HPV 31 
  • HPV 33 
  • HPV 35
  • HPV 39
  • HPV 45
  • HPV 51
  • HPV 52
  • HPV 56
  • HPV 58
  • HPV 59 

 

Out of these HPV 16 and HPV 18 are the most dangerous, and are responsible for most cases of HPV-related cancers. 

Can HPV be treated?

 

Unfortunately, there is currently no treatment option for HPV infection. Only some diseases caused by HPV, such as genital warts, can be treated. Cervical abnormalities caused by HPV can also be treated if detected in time.

Genital Warts Treatment

 

A human papillomavirus infection may present as genital or anal warts in some people. These warts can appear as raised or flat bumps, in clusters or in isolation. Some clusters of HPV warts can be identified by their cauliflower-like shape.

 

While some genital warts can clear without any specific treatment, understanding the available HPV treatment options is crucial. Removing warts can be beneficial because: 
 

  • It reduces the risk of transmitting the virus
  • Helps provide relief from itchy sensations
  • Helps maintain personal hygiene

 

Genital wart treatment involves medication that can stop the warts from growing, or immunity boosters that can help defend against HPV. The warts can also be surgically removed.

 

While treatment can help remove the warts you see, it cannot treat the virus. If HPV remains, the warts may return.

 

But this does not mean that you can’t avoid the risks posed by HPV. While specific human papillomavirus infection treatment may not be available, prevention is possible. Let’s discuss the preventive measures that can be taken against HPV.

How to Help Prevent HPV?

 

HPV can be prevented in many different ways. HPV vaccination is one such major step to help prevent HPV infection. Safe sexual practices and spreading awareness may also help prevent the spread of the HPV virus.

HPV Vaccination

 

HPV vaccines may help protect against infection from high-risk HPV types, which in turn may help in cervical cancer prevention, and prevention of certain other HPV-related cancers. Vaccination is estimated to help prevent up to 90% of cancers caused by HPV infection.

 

There are two types of HPV vaccines available, the nonavalent vaccine, which may help protect against 9 different HPV types, and the quadrivalent vaccine, which may help protect against 4 types of HPV.

Who can get vaccinated?

 

HPV vaccination is recommended for both girls and boys starting from the age of 9. Studies demonstrate that early vaccination before HPV exposure can help provide better protection against HPV infection than when given after exposure.

 

However, if you did not get vaccinated as a child, you can still benefit from vaccination. Please check with your doctor to check your eligibility and the right course of vaccination.

Is vaccination safe?

 

Various clinical trials have shown that HPV vaccination has a tolerable safety profile. It may also help prevent high-grade precancerous lesions. Additionally, major global bodies, such as WHO and CDC recommend vaccinating girls starting at age 9.

 

In fact, early HPV prevention through vaccination may give you several benefits in the long run, such as:

 

  • Early vaccination helps give better protection against high-risk types of HPV.
  • HPV vaccination may help prevent around 90% of cervical cancer cases globally.
  • Early vaccination shows a higher reduction in lifetime cancer risk.

 

It is important to take these long-term benefits into consideration while making your decision.

 

Other than vaccination, you can also take protective HPV prevention measures such as practising safe sex. 

Safe sexual practices

 

Since HPV is primarily a sexually transmitted disease, you can use safe sex measures, such as condoms, to help lower your chances of infection. However, this is not a foolproof method of HPV prevention as HPV can also spread through skin-to-skin contact, and may infect the areas that the condom does not cover.

 

Another precaution you can take is to engage in a mutually monogamous relationship.


We've now explored the intricate world of HPV, delving into its types, transmission, and how to help prevent HPV. This knowledge will make you better equipped to help protect yourself and your loved ones from the potential risks associated with HPV.

 

Emotional and psychological support also play a significant role in coping with an HPV diagnosis. Open communication with healthcare providers and your partner, and support from friends and family can help you navigate this journey.

 

Reading up on resources that help you understand HPV is one proactive step you can take against the infection. Interested in learning more about human papillomavirus infection treatments? Dive into our expert-guided information on HPV prevention and vaccination on our dedicated HPV prevention page.

 

 

Disclaimer: HPV - Human Papillomavirus. This information is intended for awareness purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your doctor.

*Image for representation purpose only

 

IN-HPV-00542 - 14/2/2024 - 19/12/2025