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Human papillomavirus or HPV is a virus that can cause infection on the surface of the skin , and has the potential to cause cervical cancer . This viral infection is characterized by the growth of warts on the skin in various areas of the body, such as arms, legs, mouth, and genital area.

HPV infection can be transmitted through direct contact with the skin or sex with sufferers. Most HPV infections are harmless and cause no symptoms. However, it is estimated that around 70% of cervical cancer cases in the world are caused by this viral infection.

HPV infection can be prevented by undergoing the HPV vaccination . In addition, the risk of contracting HPV infection can also be reduced by not changing partners.

Causes and Risk Factors of HPV

The HPV virus lives in skin surface cells that enter through cuts in the skin. The spread of HPV infection can occur through direct contact with the patient's skin.

Most HPV viruses cause warts on the skin, while others can enter the body through sexual intercourse. Pregnant women can also pass this virus on to their babies during childbirth.

There are several conditions that can increase the risk of infection with the HPV virus, namely:

  • Frequently changing sexual partners
  • Have a weak immune system
  • Have an open wound on the skin
  • Have a sexually transmitted disease, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia
  • Having anal sex (through the anus)

Symptoms of HPV

HPV infection often causes no symptoms. However, in some cases, this virus can survive until it causes symptoms in the form of the growth of warts on the skin surface, such as on the arms, legs, face, and genitals. The following are the characteristics of warts on the skin according to the area of ​​growth:

  • Warts on the shoulders, arms, and fingers
    Warts that grow in this area are lumps that feel rough and can be painful and prone to bleeding.
  • Warts on the soles of the feet ( plantar warts )
    Warts on the soles of the feet are hard lumps and feel rough, causing discomfort when treading.
  • Warts on the face
    Warts on the face have a flat surface (flat warts). In children, warts on the face more often appear in the lower jaw area.
  • Genital warts Genital
    warts are shaped like cauliflower and can grow on the genitals of women or men. In addition to the genitals, warts can also grow in the anus and cause itching.

HPV diagnosis

HPV infection can be seen through the appearance of warts on the skin. However, as mentioned above, warts may not grow on the skin.

HPV infection in the female genitals is at risk of causing cervical cancer or cervical cancer . To see the presence of HPV infection that is at risk of causing cervical cancer, the doctor may perform the following examinations:

  • Acetic acid visual inspection test (IVA)
    The IVA procedure is performed by dripping a special acetic acid solution on the genital area. If you have an HPV infection, your skin color will turn white.
  • Pap smear
    Pap smear aims to determine changes in cervical conditions that lead to cancer due to HPV infection. Pap smear is done by taking a sample of cervical cells for further examination in the laboratory.
    test The HPV DNA test is performed to detect the presence of genetic elements (DNA) from the HPV virus that has a high risk of causing cervical cancer.

HPV Infection Treatment

Most cases of HPV go away on their own without treatment. However, for those who have been diagnosed with HPV infection, especially women who have genital warts, the obstetrician will recommend a re-examination within 1 year.

This repeat visit to the doctor aims to determine whether the patient is still infected with HPV and whether there are cell changes in the cervix (cervical) that are at risk of causing cervical cancer.

Meanwhile, to treat warts that appear due to HPV infection, actions that can be taken by doctors are:

Giving ointment

For warts on the skin, your doctor may prescribe topical medications that contain salicylic acid . Salicylic acid as a genital wart drug works to gradually erode the wart layer.

Wart removal

If topical medications don't work to get rid of the wart, your doctor can remove the wart in the following ways:

  • Cryotherapy , which is freezing the warts with liquid nitrogen
  • Cautery, which is burning the wart with an electric current
  • Operation
  • Laser light therapy

Various treatments for warts cannot kill the HPV virus, so warts can grow back as long as the virus is still in the body. Until now there is no treatment that can kill HPV.

Complications of HPV

However, efforts must be made to deal with it. If not treated properly, HPV infection can cause complications such as:

  • Sores in the mouth and upper
    respiratory tract These sores can appear on the tongue, throat, larynx, or nose.
  • Cancer Several
    types of cancer that can arise are cervical cancer, anal cancer , and cancer of the upper respiratory tract. Please note, the symptoms of cervical cancer in the early stages are usually not typical, and can even have no symptoms at all.
  • Disorders of pregnancy and childbirth
    This complication can occur in pregnant women who suffer from HPV infection with genital warts. In addition, HPV infection is also at risk of causing other conditions, such as cervical erosion .

Hormonal changes can make genital warts spread and block the birth canal. In some cases, the warts can also bleed and transmit the HPV infection to the baby at birth.

HPV Infection Prevention

The main step to prevent HPV infection is to get vaccinated against HPV . The HPV vaccine is one of the mandatory vaccines in the national immunization program, to prevent HPV infection that can cause cervical cancer.

Based on the regulation of the Minister of Health, the following are recommendations for giving the HPV vaccine :

  • Girls aged 9–13 years are recommended to undergo two HPV vaccinations with an interval of 12 months
  • Women aged 13–45 years are advised to undergo three HPV vaccinations, with a gap of 2 months between the first and second vaccinations, and 6 months between the second and third vaccinations.

Please note, this vaccine is given free of charge specifically for girls aged 9-13 years. Vaccination is carried out every August through the School Child Immunization Month (BIAS) program.

Not only in women, vaccination also needs to be done in men to prevent the spread of HPV. Men and women aged 27–45 years who have never received the HPV vaccine can also receive the 9-valent vaccine.

In addition to vaccination, there are a number of preventive measures that can be taken, including:

  • Carry out routine health checks , so that if there is an HPV infection it can be quickly detected and treated immediately
  • Do not touch the wart directly and wash your hands immediately if you accidentally touch it
  • Have safe sex, including by not changing partners and always using condoms
  • Wearing footwear when doing activities outside the home to avoid contracting HPV infection in public places
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