Student Health Services provides the following services for men. All services are completely confidential, and no appointment is required.
• Sports and outdoor medicine
• Health education and counseling related specifically to men’s issues
• Sexually transmitted disease testing, counseling, treatment and education
Human Papilloma virus (HPV)
What is HPV?
Human papilloma virus (HPV) is a virus that affects the skin in the genital area, as well as a female’s cervix. Depending on the type of HPV, symptoms can be in the form of wartlike growths or abnormal cell changes. HPV is considered the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the US.
There are many different types of genital HPV; some cause genital warts and some cause abnormal cell changes in a woman’s cervix
The types of HPV that cause raised external genital warts are not linked with cancer. These are called “low-risk” types. The genital warts appear as growths or bumps, and may be raised or flat, single or multiple, small or large. They tend to be flesh-colored or whitish in appearance. Warts usually do not cause itching or burning. The warts will not disappear on their own and may continue to grow if left untreated.
Sometimes genital warts are so small that they can not be seen with the naked eye. Therefore, a person may not even know she or he has HPV and genital warts.
Some people only have one episode of warts, while others have recurrences. When warts are present, the virus is considered active. When warts are gone, the virus remains latent in the skin cells and may or may not be contagious at this time. Warts may appear within several weeks after sexual contact with someone who has a wart-type of HPV, or it may take several months or years to appear. This makes it hard to know exactly when or from whom someone got the virus.
HPV, regardless of the type, is usually spread by direct skin-to-skin contact during vaginal, anal or (rarely) oral sex with someone who has this infection. Genital warts are most likely to be transmitted when symptoms (warts) are actually present, but sometimes warts are too small to see with the naked eye. Warts are not commonly found in the mouth, so some experts believe that transmission through oral sex is not likely.
The types of HPV that cause genital warts do not usually cause warts on other body parts such as the hands. Warts on other parts of the body are caused by different types of HPV. People do not get genital warts by touching warts on their hands or feet.
Testing for Warts
It can be hard to tell the difference between a wart and normal bumps on the genital area. If you have any bumps or growths, visit the Student Health Center and have the area examined by a clinician.
To look for warts or other abnormal tissue, the clinician may put acetic acid (vinegar) on the genitals. This causes warts to turn white and makes them easier to see, especially if they are viewed through a magnifying lens.
HPV is a virus, and there is currently no cure. However, there are several treatment options available for both genital warts and cervical changes. The goal of treatment should be to remove visible genital warts or the abnormal cells. No one treatment is best for all cases. When choosing what treatment to use, the clinician will consider the type of HPV; patient preference; cost of treatment; convenience; size, location and number of warts; changes in the warts; location of abnormal cells; results of the pap smear; colposcopy; biopsy and HPV test; adverse effects; and their own experience with the treatments.
• Cryotherapy (freezing off the wart with liquid nitrogen). This can be relatively inexpensive and must be done by a trained clinician.
• TCA (trichloracetic acid). This chemical is applied to the surface of the wart.
• Surgical removal. This has the advantage of getting rid of warts in a single office visit.
• Electrocautery (burning off warts with an electrical current).
• Laser therapy (using an intense light to destroy warts). This is used for larger or extensive warts, especially those that have not responded well to other treatments. Laser therapy can also be very expensive.
• At-home prescription creams. These creams are self-applied, safe and easy to use.
Anal cancer is a rare occurrence that has been strongly linked to high-risk types of HPV. Abnormal cell changes in the anal area are more common among individuals who engage in receiving anal sex. Abnormal changes in the anus have also been reported in some females who have a history of severe cervical changes. Treatment is available for anal cell changes and anal cancer.
Penile cancer is extremely rare in the U.S., and HPV is not always the cause. There are some cases of cell changes on the penis that are caused by high-risk types of HPV, but most males do not ever experience symptoms or health risks if they get one or more high-risk types of HPV.
HPV has been linked with some, but not all, cases of cell changes in the vagina and with vaginal cancers. Similarly, HPV has been linked with some, but not all, cases of cell changes on the vulva (outside female genital area) and with vulvar cancers. Treatment options are available for both vaginal or vulvar cell changes, depending on how mild or severe the cell changes are in this area.
Most pregnant women who have had genital warts previously but no longer do would be unlikely to have any complications or problems during pregnancy or birth. Because of hormone changes in the body during pregnancy, warts can grow in size and number, bleed, or, in extremely rare cases, make delivery harder. Very rarely, babies exposed to the wart-types of HPV during birth may develop growths in the throat; however, this risk is so minimal that a cesarean-section delivery is not necessary unless warts are blocking the birth canal.
For some pregnant women, cervical changes may increase. This may be due to hormone changes during pregnancy, but this is not proven. If a woman has an abnormal pap smear during pregnancy, even if it’s severely abnormal, many health-care providers will not prescribe treatment. They will just monitor the cervix closely with a colposcope during the pregnancy. A few weeks after delivery of the baby, the provider will look at the cervix again and do another pap smear or another biopsy. Many times after pregnancy, the cell changes will have spontaneously resolved and no treatment will be necessary. The types of HPV that can cause cell changes on the cervix and genital skin have not been found to cause problems for babies.
Any person who is sexually active may come in contact with this common virus. Ways to reduce your risk include not having sex with anyone or having sex only with one partner who has sex only with you. People who have many sex partners are at higher risk of getting other STIs.
If someone has visible symptoms of genital warts, he or she should not have sexual activity until the warts are removed. This may help to lower the risk of giving the virus.
Condoms used correctly from start to finish for each act of sex may provide some protection. Because HPV is transmitted skin-to-skin, and condoms do not cover the entire genital region, it is still possible to transmit the virus.
Source: This information was adapted from the American Social Health Association’s Web site at www.ashastd.org.