Human Papilloma virus (HPV) is a very common virus and infects at least half of all the sexually active men at some point in their life. The viral infection clears out on its own, and in most of the cases without any need for medication. However, some cases of HPV infection can lead to genital warts and more serious ones can even lead to genital cancers.
How Does a Man Get HPV?
HPV is a sexually transmitted virus which is transferred from an infected person to his healthy sex partner. There are around 40 types of HPV that can infect the genitals, mouth and throat. The immune system of a healthy person usually clears the HPV infection without developing any symptoms.
Symptoms of HPV Infection
Since most of the cases of HPV infection are mild that disappear with time, there are no obvious signs and symptoms. However some people may develop serious complications and even life threatening diseases like cancer.
HPV infections can lead to abnormal changes in an otherwise healthy cell which causes it to undergo uninterrupted cell divisions. The extra mass of cells produced thereby can present themselves as genital warts on the penis, scrotum, anus, groin or thighs. The warts may appear as flaky patches or raised skin growth.
Cancer of the Penis, Anus and Oropharynx
Any excess skin growth has the potential to be cancerous and should be checked with the doctor immediately. More pronounced symptoms of cancer such as, rapid weight loss, penal discharge, sore throat that refuses to heal, indigestion, chronic fatigue, difficulty in swallowing and so on should be checked with the physician on an urgent basis.
You should also check for appearance of white patches, ulcers, blisters, sores and any abnormal skin growth on and around the penis, anus and scrotum.
Tests for HPV Infection in Men
There are no definitive tests for HPV and therefore it is difficult to diagnose an HPV infection. Genital warts can be caused by other reasons apart from HPV infection and doctors sometimes use vinegar solution to check warts which appear as small patches and are not raised.
Anal or penile cancers are more difficult to diagnose as there are no conclusive tests available. However, some doctors recommend Pap smear test for microscopic examination of cells to detect abnormalities.
The vaccine Gardasil for men can protect from anal cancer and genital warts to some extent. It is the only approved vaccine and protects against HPV types 6 and 11. It is considered to be safe and effective against HPV infections for the male within the age group of 9-26 years.
The vaccine is available in three doses and can effectively prevent HPV infections in boys and men who have had no previous sexual experience before taking the vaccine. It can also prevent HPV infections in sexually active men who have not been exposed to HPV infections previously.
Treatment of HPV
Most of the HPV infections are harmless and need no medication. However in cases of severe infection which needs medical attention and for more serious diseases like cancer, the doctors treat the patients according to their symptoms and disease. So far, there is no cure available for HPV infection, therefore prevention is the best option.
HPV infections can be carried in the body for years without any appearance of symptoms. The HPV infected person can transmit the infection to another person without developing the disease himself. The virus can even remain dormant in the body for many years and then go away without causing any disease.