HPV Vaccine

What is HPV?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the US. It is spread via vaginal, anal, or oral sex with another infected person. Some types can even be transmitted via skin-to-skin contact. While HPV is not, in itself, considered to be particularly dangerous, it does increase the risk of developing genital warts and a wide variety of cancers. Both men and women may be infected with HPV, but it can only be tested for and detected in women.

Symptoms of HPV

The symptoms of HPV are often hard to detect and may include:

Types of HPV

There are over 200 specific types (and related viruses) of HPV, some more common than others, some more severe, but all pose a risk. In fact, the FDA estimates that half of all sexually active people will contract HPV at some point in their lifetime. The CDC goes even further stating that between 80% and 90% of all sexually active individuals will contract HPV, with half of those falling into what are known as “high-risk.” There are two categories of HPV, “high-risk” and “low risk.”

High Risk: High risk types of HPV can eventually lead to cancer, including type 16 and 18. Luckily, most cases of high risk human papillomavirus are transient and disappear within a couple of years, most also present asymptomatically.

Low Risk: Low Risk HPV are common types including type 6 and 11. Despite the low risk title, these typically present with genital warts, and in some instances respiratory papillomatosis (warts within the airway).

HPV Vaccines

To combat the shockingly common occurrence of human papillomavirus various vaccines have been created. HPV vaccines, like most other vaccines, contain components of the virus which it aims to prevent. In the case of the HPV vaccine, a coat protein of the virus is used in the vaccine to help the body’s immune cells identify and memorize the shape and structure of the virus to defend against in the future. Basically a vaccine is a test drill, preparing your autoimmune “fighters” in the event of an HPV “invasion.” The vaccine lacks that components of HPV that allow it to spread and infect healthy cells. The end result is that the virus gets its own “wanted” poster within the body. Immune cells are primed to detect and react to future encounters of the virus without the patient actually becoming infected.

In preventing HPV, these vaccines also work to prevent the conditions HPV often causes. This includes cervical cancer, vulvar as well as vaginal, anal, and even mouth cancer. Pain or swelling may occur at the injection site, but the vaccine is largely believed to be completely safe. HPV vaccines are primarily administered to women, but men often opt for vaccination as it has been shown to reduce the risk of penile and anal cancer.

HPV vaccines are typically administered just before the onset of puberty. This is done to ensure children are protected against the virus before there is a realistic risk of them contracting HPV. Getting vaccinated against HPV can be a fantastic way to reduce the potential risk of developing a variety of cancers. Request more information on vaccinating your child against HPV today. Call (408) 946-9453 or contact us online.

Author
Gul A. Zikria, MD, FACOG As an expert in preventive care, innovative treatment solutions, and laparoscopic surgery, board-certified OB/GYN Gul A. Zikria, MD, FACOG, is a trusted practitioner who’s been in private practice since 1985. Dr. Zikria earned his doctor of medicine from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark. He went on to complete a competitive surgical residency program at Georgetown University in Washington. Dr. Zikria then went through a comprehensive obstetrics and gynecology residency program through the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center at the Magee-Women’s Hospital. He welcomes new and existing patients to his practice in Milpitas, California.

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