Blog

Safe Sex: Uncovering the Human Papillomavirus

To start this new year off on the right foot, let’s talk about how wonderful it is to enjoy healthy and safe sexual relations for both our physical and psychological well-being. To do this, we need to have quality information about the risks to which we are exposed. We must know how to prevent infections and thus avoid excessive alarms and fears that can condition our personal relationships.

Today we are going to talk about a virus that is already known to most people, due to its high frequency in the population. It is the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), whose incidence has been increasing dramatically in recent years, especially among young people.

WHAT IS THE HUMAN PAPILLOMAVIRUS AND WHAT PROBLEMS CAN IT CAUSE?

HPV belongs to a large family of viruses as there are more than 100 types of HPV, of which more than 30 are transmitted through sexual intercourse.

It is estimated that 75-80% of the population is infected with this virus. However, not all people who come into contact with the virus develop genital warts or condylomas, which is the most frequent manifestation of this virus. The appearance of these lesions and their severity will depend on several factors such as immunity and the amount of virus present in the infecting person. When they appear, condylomas are recognized as small, single or multiple, millimeter-sized brownish skin masses found on the genitals, perineum or around the anus (and more rarely in the mouth).

genital warts-condylomas
genital warts-condylomas

If you suffer or have suffered from condylomas or genital warts, you should keep in mind that most of the time these are benign lesions and easily treatable by your dermatologist. However, we should also be aware that some of these viruses have the capacity to cause cancer in the area where they are located (these are the so-called high-risk viruses). Within this group, there are some HPV types that are especially important since they have the capacity to settle on the woman’s cervix and produce cervical or anal-rectal cancer many years later. To minimize this risk, it is sufficient to perform regular cytological controls in women or rectoscopies in people who have had the infection themselves or their partner.

HOW CAN I PREVENT PHV INFECTION?

Preventing HPV infection is really difficult, which is why it has spread so rapidly among the population. This has occurred for several reasons:

1. The virus tends to infect the entire perineal area (pubis, genitals, anal region…), which the condom does not cover in its entirety. However, their use can reduce the risk of transmission.
2. A person without visible condylomas can be infected and transmit the infection (asymptomatic carrier). The most frequent situation we encounter.

The good news is that two HPV vaccines have become commercially available in recent years. These vaccines only cover some types of viruses (high risk), so they do not protect us completely from infection.

WHAT DO I DO IF I SUSPECT I HAVE CONDYLOMATA ACUMINATA?

If you suspect you have condylomas, it is important to visit your dermatologist or gynecologist to confirm the diagnosis.

There are several very effective treatments to get rid of condylomas, although the total elimination of the virus from the skin or mucous membranes may be slower and will be taken care of by your immunity over time.

Among the treatments, the most frequent are: cryotherapy with liquid nitrogen, laser, electrosurgery, imiquimod cream, green tea or podophyllotoxin, the latter being applied by the patient. Sometimes it is necessary to combine several treatment modalities.

Despite treatment, new warts may continue to appear for the first 6-12 months, but do not worry. After this time, the frequency of appearance decreases.

HOW CAN IT AFFECT MY PARTNER OR MY SEX LIFE?

It is important for you to know that the study of couples without symptoms is not generally advised. What is advised is that women continue with their regular gynecological check-ups to prevent cervical cancer, as mentioned above.

Being infected with HPV, however it manifests itself, does not have to affect our sex life. If we have sex with only one person and have never used a condom with that person, starting to use a condom after diagnosis does not change the evolution of the infection.

However, if we have sex with different people, it is important to use a condom. Not only to reduce the risk of acquiring HPV, but also other sexually transmitted infections such as herpes, HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea or Chlamydia.

DO YOU HAVE ANY DOUBTS? ASK YOUR DERMATOLOGIST

If, in addition to the information you find available on the web, you have doubts about how to proceed, you should ask your dermatologist to clarify in understandable language all the doubts you may have.

Sexually transmitted infections often involve a component of fear or embarrassment that should not prevent us from expressing our concerns clearly.

In addition, there are specialized centers in the Community of Madrid where you will find professionals specialized in this subject who will be able to guide you in everything you need without waiting list. I attach the references:

1. INFECTIOUS DERMATOLOGY AND SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES (STD) UNIT.

HM Sanchinarro Hospital. C/ Oña, 10. 28050 Madrid. Preferential appointment for STD suspicions: 91 756 78 00 (ext 4044)

2. AIDS/STD PREVENTION PROGRAMME MADRID CITY COUNCIL C/ Montesa, 22 28006 Madrid

3. YOUNG HEALTH CENTER. C/ Navas de Tolosa, 10, 2º 28013 Madrid

4. SANDOVAL HEALTH CENTER. C/ Sandoval, 7 28010 Madrid

We hope it has been of interest to you and will help you to enjoy your sexual relations more and better.

 

TUDERMA