Thank you for allowing me an opportunity to answer your interesting
question. I?m sure you are already aware that answers in our forum are
not to be considered medical advice and that it is always best to rely
on licensed medical personnel. Having said that I?ll be happy to shed
some light on your questions by pointing out a number of issues I have
researched for you.
Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, is said to be the most common viral STD
(sexually transmitted disease) in the world. Experts think that only
about 1-2% of the people with wart-causing HPV and 3-5% of the people
with dysplasia-causing HPV ever get diagnosed which is why the disease
is so prevalent. To understand what you are potentially facing you
must first understand what HPV is.
Human Papillomavirus is the virus that causes warts ? all warts. The
warts people get on their hand, or plantar's wart on the bottom of
your foot, and even skin tags commonly found in creases of the neck
and underarms are all caused by this same kind of virus. There are
more than 70 different kinds of HPV - and roughly 30 of these cause
genital HPV, the kind you are referring to here. Genital HPV is not
always accompanied by genital warts though. Of the 30 strains that
infect the genital area there are two basic subcategories: Genital
Warts and Cervical Dysplasia. Since you haven?t mentioned warts I will
assume that the latter is your primary concern.
Cervical dysplasia is the fancy term for an abnormal pap smear. A pap
smear can detect this and determine if the cervical cells have
undergone abnormal changes. The changes relative to cervical dysplasia
are basically evident in abnormal or precancerous tissue growth on the
cervix that can, and sometimes does, lead to cervical cancer but
usually only after the virus has been left untreated for several years
(generally speaking though most women do not develop cervical cancer
but nevertheless the increased risk is there). The primary reason that
a doctor gives a woman a pap smear every year is to see whether or not
she has developed one of the many dysplasia-causing HPV strains in her
body by looking for symptoms. These symptoms include: abnormal cell
changes precancerous cells changes, CIN (cervical intraepithelial
neoplasia), SIL (squamous intraepithelial lesions), and/or "warts" on
the cervix. Cervical dysplasia can also lead to spontaneous abortion
?What is cervical dysplasia??
Now let me say this, as a rule, if you only have one strain, you will
only get one thing - warts OR dysplasia, but not both from this one
strain of the virus. There is an exception however and unfortunately
that exception is strain 16. This particular strain normally causes
dysplasia, but can also cause ?condyloma planum,? or flat warts. Note,
however, that these are not the normal raised warts that the wart
strains cause. So suffice it to say that the only way a person could
get both warts AND dysplasia is if she had more than one kind of HPV,
or if you had strain 16. Cervical dysplasia of course is a condition
exclusive to women and men are not at risk of this condition but they
?can?, in some instances develop what is known as ?penile dysplasia?,
?penile neoplasia?, ?anal dysplasia? or ?anal neoplasia?, depending on
the kinds of intercourse practiced. As you can see, unprotected sex is
nothing to scoff at and even then it should be mentioned that condoms
are not an entirely reliable means of avoiding HPV infection by either
The American Social Health Association says:
?If a man?s partner has low-risk HPV ? the kind that causes genital
warts?the man has a 2/3 chance of getting genital warts himself.
(However, even if he never shows signs of the warts, he is still
infected, providing he has been having sex with the person who has
them. His immune system may be strong enough so that he isn?t having
symptoms, but he is contagious.) In this case, a male would get the
exact same symptoms as a female, and they would be treated the same
HOW HPV AFFECTS MEN
If a man has had vaginal sex with a woman who has dysplasia, the man
will become a carrier of the virus. This means that he will become a
potentially contagious host for the virus but may never exhibit signs
of the virus himself.
Testing for men is a tricky thing and unfortunately non-existent for
the most part (another reason why both men and women should ALWAYS
insist on protection during sex):
?Now, of course heterosexual men want to know whether there?s a way
that they can get tested, like a pap smear for women or an anal pap
smear for men. Unfortunately, there isn?t. If you?re male, doctors can
only diagnose you if you have symptoms, meaning warts. Because you
don?t have symptoms of dysplasia, they can?t know whether you have it
or not, making it that much more dangerous because you could spread it
unknowingly to other people. The reason there is no test is because
the skin on the penis is so thick that a.) it?s very hard to get a
sample, and b.) it often comes up falsely negative.?
HOW HPV AFFECTS MEN
An asymptomatic person (one who shows no symptoms) cannot be
definitely diagnosed with HPV nor can the virus be ruled out unless a
special test is conducted. While most pap tests generally look for
?abnormalities? in general there is a test that specifically looks for
the DNA of HPV. This is aptly called a Pap-HPV DNA test. Right now the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration only approves the use of the test on
women patients because it involves the testing of cervical cells
(which men don?t have) but you?ll read more about that in a moment.
?Does HPV pose a cancer risk to men who contract the virus??
Experts don?t believe so. The HPV that causes these types of cancers
have not been shown to pose a significant cancer risk to men. However,
I reiterate that if you have repeatedly had unprotected sex with a
woman with HPV the likelihood that you are a carrier is probably great
and you would pose a potential risk to a future partner, no only of
passing the virus on to her but by placing her at increased risk for
cancer and possibly death.
?What is the incubation time for HPV? How long does it take for HPV to
show up after I've been exposed??
The normal incubation period is anywhere from one month to two years.
However, depending on a person?s immune system, general health,
genetics, etc, the patient may not exhibit symptoms for decades (or
ever, for that matter). Could you both be ?dormant?, in other words,
could you both be carriers from exposures of your distant past sexual
encounters with others? Absolutely. There?s no question about it.
Based on your admitted history and your description of your partner?s
history, one or both of you could EASILY have had HPV (for several
years even) and never known it.
(Source: University of Maryland)
?There's no way of telling when you are going to get symptoms, if you
ever do. The incubation time for HPV is unknown. Sometimes it takes
only a month; sometimes it takes several years. I have heard of people
who were married for years and years, faithfully, and then suddenly
one of them got HPV because their immune system changed and the virus
had a chance to come out. Sometimes, it never shows up at all. But the
person is still infected - they just don't show signs.?
HPV ? FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
?What should you do now??
Well, certainly I?d consult with my physician and try not to get too
worked up about it for now. If I were you I?d make it a point to
practice careful, protected sex if I was intent on having sex with the
person again at all. HPV is something you can keep under control by
boosting your immune system. This would include living a healthy
lifestyle, eating a lot of good food, and taking vitamin supplements.
Specialists in this field very strongly stress a healthy lifestyle as
a means of controlling this virus. Some recommend a good multivitamin,
Echinacea and vitamin C and say that this, accompanied with healthy
living habits in general have shown promising results in helping
people combat the HPV in their bodies. If you believe you may be a
carrier, now would be a good time to start thinking ahead about taking
care of yourself so you can boost you immune system (just in case).
Some experts also believe that there is a direct correlation between
one?s likelihood of contracting the virus or being further sickened by
it once they get it, and smoking. If you smoke, stop. More recently
HPV has been linked to cancers such as skin, lung, eye, and esophagus.
Stopping smoking can potentially decreases one?s chances of getting
these residual diseases.
HEALTH SCIENCE REPORT
?Darn! Is there any good news??
Sure there is. Researchers are working on new developments that will
allow them to potentially diagnose HPV is patients without symptoms.
?Now, there is a very new development in the HPV world known as the
Digene Hybrid Capture II test. This is basically a DNA test for HPV in
the skin cells. Right now, it is being used on women only, to analyze
which type of HPV they have if their pap smears were already abnormal.
It is not widely available just yet, and it is mainly used to detect
the cancer-causing types of HPV (dysplasia strains 16 and 18). The
reason they can't use it on everyone is, they can certainly take a
sample of your skin and test it for HPV, but you may have HPV in
another part of your skin that they didn't test - thus giving you a
false negative. Also, according to ASHA, the skin [cells] on a man's
penis is so thick that it's hard to get a sample, so that makes for a
false negative as well. But they're working on it.?
HPV ? FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
There are even some tests out there for men called the ?HPV man test?.
It isn?t pleasant but if it would bring you some peace of mind you
might inquire about it to your physician. The HPV man test is
generally a penile swab to find abnormal cellular changes ? a kind of
?pap test?, if you want to look at it that way, for men. Your
physician may not be capable of doing this type of test and you may
have to see a specialist or enter some study in order to get it
because HPV testing among men is rarely done except for research.
It is important to put HPV in perspective. For one, you are not alone.
Believe it or not, MOST SEXUALLY ACTIVE PEOPLE GET SOME FORM OF THIS
VIRUS AT SOME POINT IN THEIR LIVES and go on to live long, healthy,
fruitful lives. According to the American Journal of Medicine in 1997,
74% of sexually active people (aged 15-49) will get an HPV infection
at some point in their lives. The figure is probably more like 80%
today which means that A LOT of your people you know (friends and
family alike) are already infected. Now I understand it may not be
very comforting to know that other people have this condition but when
you think about it, those who don?t know they have it ? aside from
being carriers themselves ? are living relatively normal lives. It?s
the KNOWING that sometimes seems to be the hardest part. Because of
this HPV is said to be ?an emotional virus? meaning that some people
are more affected mentally by their infection than they are
I also ran across this statement that you might actually find somewhat
comforting and should motivate you to take further precautions rather
than just conceding to the fact that you may be infected when it comes
to protecting yourself even more carefully from here on out:
?What we do know is that HPV does not tend to be persistent in most
cases, and most people who have contracted it are not thought to be
Source: The American Social Health Association and my new book, "What
Your Doctor May Not Tell You About HPV and abnormal pap smears" by
Joel Palevsky, MD.
HPV ? FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
While abnormalities in the cervix can lead to spontaneous abortion in
some women, other have actually had the abnormalities resolve
themselves flowing pregnancy. This is not always the case and in fact
some women have noted that their problems got worse. The reasons for
either of these are not entirely understood by experts but some
suggest that the hormonal changes may be responsible. It is good to
know however that the types of HPV that can cause cell changes on the
cervix and genital skin have NOT been found to cause problems for
these women?s babies.
?What about pregnancy, HPV, and cervical dysplasia??
Below you will find that I have carefully defined my search strategy
for you in the event that you need to search for more information. By
following the same type of searches that I did you may be able to
enhance the research I have provided even further. I hope you find
that my research exceeds your expectations. If you have any questions
about my research please post a clarification request prior to rating
the answer. Otherwise, I welcome your rating and your final comments
and I look forward to working with you again in the near future. Thank
you for bringing your question to us.
Tutuzdad ? Google Answers Researcher
HPV FOR DUMMIES
AMERICAN SOCIAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION
ASHA ? INFORMATION TO LIVE BY: HUMAN PAPILLOMAVIRUS (HPV)
DIOGENE ? HYBRID CAPTURE II
HEALTH SCIENCE REPORT: HPV-18
HPV LINKS AND RESOURCES
THE HPV TEST
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