16 Feb 2010    HPV and Men

 HPV or Human Papilloma Virus is an extremely common Sexually Transmitted Disease causing significant anxiety amongst women and men alike. Men contract HPV by vaginal or anal intercourse and most men as well as women that are sexually active will be infected by HPV at some point in their lives.

Fortunately, most men that become infected never develop symptoms or health issues. Some types of the HPV virus can cause warts on the genital area and anus. These occur as single or multiple growths on the penis, scrotum, groin, thighs or anus. They can be flat, raised or cauliflower shaped. They usually have no pain associated with them. They can occur within a few weeks after sexual contact with someone who has the HPV virus or they can sometimes take moths to develop after contact.

Other types of the HPV virus can actually cause cancer of the penis and anus. Men who have sex with other men are much more likely to develop cancer of the anus than men who only have sexual relations with women. Anal cancer can sometimes not cause any symptoms at all but may cause itching, pain, discharge or bleeding about the anus. Sometimes anal cancer can cause ones bowel habits to change or the size and shape of your stool to change. Cancer of the penis from HPV can cause the skin color to change or cause the skin to thicken, cause a skin growth or open sore on the penis. 

There is currently no commercially available test to detect or confirm HPV infection in men without symptoms. Examination by a qualified health professional ca help confirm a diagnosis of warts but sometimes absolute confirmation can only be obtained by having a small pice of skin removed and sent away for biopsy. This is usually not performed unless the patient requests confirmation or the health professional is concerned about the appearance of the growth.

Condoms may help in preventing men from contracting HPV but they are not extremely effective. Abstinence is the only way to be certain to not get infected with the HPV virus. 

Gardasil is a vaccination that has been used in women for a few years now to help prevent HPV warts, precancerous and cancerous growths on the cervix, vagina and skin around the vagina. Until very recently, there was no vaccination available to men to prevent them from contracting HPV. In October of 2009 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the Gardasil vaccine in boys and men ages 9 through 26 for the prevention of genital warts. It does not offer protection against all the different types of HPV. In studies conducted by the manufacturer of the vaccine, Gardasil was 90 percent effective in preventing warts caused by the HPV. 

The vaccine is given as a series of 3 injections over a 6 month period. The most common side effects reported with the vaccine are headache, fever, pain at the injection site, itching, redness, swelling and bruising.

A means of detecting HPV virus amongst men who are infected and not experiencing any symptoms is greatly needed. Hopefully over time, these tests will be made commercially available. Additional means of preventing and combatting this virus that causes much fear and anxiety amongst men and women alike is also greatly needed.