By THE NEW YORK TIMES
Can warts on the hand lead to anal or genital infections? Are warts a form of herpes? Those are among the questions readers recently posed to Dr. Peter Leone, associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and Public Health, responds.
Q. I do not have genital herpes; however, as of late I have begun getting many warts on the inside of my hands. Is this a form of herpes? If so, can these warts be transmitted sexually and/or turn into genital herpes when exposed to the genital area? What is the cause of these warts, and how should they be treated?
A. Dr. Peter Leone responds:
Warts are caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV, whereas genital herpes is caused by herpes simplex virus, or HSV. Warts are not a form of herpes, and HPV will not cause genital herpes. Conversely, genital herpes does not cause cervical cancer or anal cancer.
There are more than 100 types of HPV. Different types are associated with infections in different areas of the body and different forms of persistent infection. From 90 to 95 percent of HPV infections are transient and clear without any disease manifestation. Cervical, anal and some head and neck cancers are caused by different types of HPV infection.
More than 30 HPV types can infect the genital tract. Four in particular are associated with HPV-related disease. Up to 90 percent of genital warts are caused by HPV Types 6 and 11, while about 70 percent of cervical cancers are caused by HPV Types 16 and 18.
Warts on the hands and feet are most commonly caused by HPV Types 1, 2 or 3. Rarely, much less than 1 percent of the time, they can infect the genital tract. If you have warts on your hands or feet, however, you will not transmit that HPV type to your own or your partner’s genital tract, no matter how much physical contact you have. Unfortunately, the high-risk HPV types associated with cervical and anal cancer can, and usually are, transmitted in the absence of any visible lesions.
Treatment of warts involves either freezing or chemically treating the wart (ablation therapy), or the use of immunomodulating agents that stimulate the immune system to clear the virus. You should see your clinician to decide what therapy is best for you.
Two HPV vaccines are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the prevention of papillomavirus infections. The bivalent HPV vaccine, called Cervarix, offers protection from persistent infection with HPV Types 16 and 18, which are responsible for most cases of cervical cancer. The quadrivalent HPV vaccine, or Gardasil, offers protection against those strains and two others, HPV Types 6 and 11, which are responsible for a majority of anal and genital warts.
Article from Consults – Experts on the Front Lines of Medicine