Human Papillomavirus (HPV) of the Mouth: What You Should Know

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) of the mouth is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It affects approximately 70% of men and almost all women. HPV infection is caused by two types of human papillomaviruses, which are called high risk or low risk types. These viruses infect the genital area and cause cervical cancer in women. They also cause other cancers such as oropharyngeal cancer in men.

HPV infection can lead to various health problems including genital warts, penile cancer, head and neck squamous cell carcinomas, vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIU), vaginal cancer, penile cancer and others.

The average life expectancy after diagnosis with HPV is 7 years. The average age at onset of symptoms is 15 to 25 years old. Most cases occur during adolescence.

HPV is spread through sexual contact. A person may become infected with HPV only if they have had unprotected sexual activity with someone who has the virus. There are several ways to transmit HPV, but the most common way is through skin-to-skin contact, such as kissing or sharing towels, bed sheets or underwear.

It is possible to get HPV even if you only have unprotected vaginal or hand jobs with someone who has genital warts or HPV.

10-30% of people who are newly infected with HPV don’t experience any symptoms at all, which can make it difficult to identify. It takes an average of 10-30 years for the virus to become visible as genital warts or abnormal pap smears.

If you have visible genital warts, it doesn’t mean that you have an STD. It simply means that you have HPV and that your body has identified the virus and mounted a response against it.

Since there is no cure for HPV, treatment options are limited to symptom management.

HPV can be diagnosed through a visual inspection by a doctor. If you have any warts or unusual cells in your genital area, a biopsy may be performed.

There is no cure for HPV, but it can be managed with regular monitoring and medical attention if required.

While there is no cure for HPV, there are treatments available that can remove the warts themselves if they become bothersome. There is also a vaccine available which can prevent people from getting infected with the types of HPV that cause genital warts and various forms of cancer.

There are two types of HPV vaccines licensed for use: Gardasil and Cervarix. While these vaccines are not 100% effective, they have been shown to protect against the two high-risk types of HPV that cause the majority of cases of cervical cancer. Having regular Pap smears can also help detect abnormal cells before they turn into cancer.

Sources & references used in this article:

Human papillomavirus and oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma: what the clinician should know by EM Genden, IM Sambur, JR de Almeida… – European Archives of …, 2013 – Springer

Human papillomavirus (HPV) status of non-tobacco related squamous cell carcinomas of the lateral tongue by JS Poling, XJ Ma, S Bui, Y Luo, R Li, WM Koch… – Oral oncology, 2014 – Elsevier

Oral human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in HPV-positive patients with oropharyngeal cancer and their partners by G D’Souza, ND Gross, SI Pai, R Haddad… – Journal of Clinical …, 2014 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Prevalence of human papillomavirus (HPV) in oral cavity and oropharynx by TPPG Castro, I Bussoloti Filho – Brazilian journal of otorhinolaryngology, 2006 – Elsevier

Detection of human papillomavirus-16 and HPV-18 DNA in normal, dysplastic, and malignant oral epithelium by M Sugiyama, UK Bhawal, T Dohmen, S Ono… – Oral surgery, oral …, 2003 – Elsevier

Human papillomavirus–positive oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer patients do not have better quality-of-life trajectories by A Sharma, E Méndez, B Yueh… – … –Head and Neck …, 2012 – journals.sagepub.com