[Question #147] HPV and Oral cancer

37 months ago
Good Afternoon

I have been have a tingly tongue and now a terrible soar throat and ear ache stuffy nose ect.  The tongue seems to feel better if I take Zyrtec, but still tingles for the last couple weeks. I have been taking all different vit/mins to help with the non 16/18 HPV infection. I have been very worried about my tongue so started to read on line about Oral Hpv and warts and now I am freaking out. Do warts cause the tongue to tingle? And if I have non 16/18 does that mean if it is warts on the tongue odds are I don't have oral cancer? 
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
37 months ago
Welcome to the forum and thanks for your question. I'll try to help. The bottom line is that your symptoms don't suggest an oral HPV infection and you needn't be at all worried about oral cancer. I'm going to address your concerns one sentence at a time.

"tingly tongue and now a terrible soar throat and ear ache stuffy nose":  Sore throat, earache, and nasal congestion all suggest you have a cold or allergy. HPV doesn't cause such symptoms. See below about your tingling tongue.

"tongue seems to feel better if I take Zyrtec, but still tingles":  I doubt your tingling tongue is due to allergy, and that's the only problem that Zyrtec will treat. If Zyrtec isn't helping this or other symptoms, I suggest you stop taking it. Oral HPV causes no symptoms at all and for sure can't be the reason for a tingling tongue. I would guess this might be an anxiety symptom.

"I have been taking all different vit/mins to help with the non 16/18 HPV infection." Vitamins won't hurt, but I'm afraid they also won't help your previously diagnosed HPV infection. Presumably that's a genital infection, right? Detected by pap smear? It's nice to assume that healthy diet, vitamins, a strong immune system, and overall healthy lifestyle might help the immune system clear HPV. Unfortunately, there's just no evidence for it. OTOH, your immune system WILL clear it up; it just takes time, typically a few months, sometimes up to a couple of years.

"started to read on line about Oral Hpv and warts":  Don't get freaked out about online information. Oral HPV isn't rare, but it isn't all that common either. It causes no symptoms at all. The only important health problem commonly related to oral HPV is cancer of the throat, and that's a problem only with a single HPV type (HPV 16); remains quite rare; and becomes more common only after age 50 or so. As noted above, oral HPV causes no symptoms -- no warts, no tingling, nothing.

"Do warts cause the tongue to tingle?"  Nope. See above.

"if I have non 16/18 does that mean if it is warts on the tongue odds are I don't have oral cancer?" Discussed above. The tingling does not mean you have tongue warts (if you had warts, they would be obviously visible) and there is no reason to suspect you have oral cancer.

If your tongue symptoms continue, see your doctor. Whatever the cause, it has nothing to do with HPV, unless due to anxiety about HPV, as discussed above.

I hope this has been helpful. Best wishes--   HHH, MD



 
---
37 months ago
Thank you!!! My next question is if I  have non 16/18  HPV detached by pap can a different strain be in my mouth? Or is the same strain that was found the same strain that is in my entire system?  I am completed worried and beyond freaking out. Or is the strain that I am infected with the strain that will stay the same until a new strain is introduced ...My life has been turned completely upside down and live iI I am 43 ,mom , wife and a professional woman...and now live in complete fear.Esp with this whole mouth thing all of sudden starting.
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
37 months ago
It is certainly possible to have more than one HPV infection at a time, and for more than one site to be involved. Even the genital HPV testing doesn't detect all infections. There are 100 or more HPV types, most of which can be sexually transmitted, but genital testing only checks for 10-12 of the most common types most likely to cause health problems. That said, there is no particular reason for you to believe you have an oral infection with any HPV type. And if you do, it will not cause harm and probably will not be transmitted to anyone else, sexually or otherwise.

But the important problem here is your serious and somewhat irrational overreaction to the whole notion of HPV. Having sexually acquired HPV is a normal, expected, unavoidable, and mostly harmless consequence of being a sexually active human. Pap smears (usually with HPV testing) are important to detect the minority that are likely to be more serious (but even the highest risk types usually do not lead to actual cancer); and immunization of young people is important to reduce the risk of infections more likely to cause future health problems. Beyond these, it isn't appropriate to be fearful about HPV.

All of us are inhabited by trillions of bacteria, viruses, and other components of the "microbiome" that inhabit our skin, intestines, genital tract, and all body cavities. Some of them can occaionally cause disease, sometimes serious or even fatal: that's how we get staph or strep infection, urinary tract infections, pimples, recurrent chickenpox (in the form of shingles), and sometimes delayed consequences of previously silent HPV or herpes infections. But these are exceptions, and in fact the vast bulk of our microbiomes not only are not harmful, but are essential to our health.  We would all die early without them. That some of these happen to be passed between persons by sex doesn't make them special. In fact, you can be sure that your genital tract is filled with various bacteria and perhaps unknown viruses that you acquired from your sex partner(s) over the years; and they are sharing bacteria and viruses that started with you.

The point is that HPV is just part of all this. I repeat that it is normal and expected, and not necessarily unhealthy, that you have HPV. It should not be a cause of anxiety and worry, as long as you follow your doctor's advice for follow-up to be sure you don't end up in that small minority that has a potential health problem. And oral infection is especially unlikely to ever cause a health problem.

I hope these comments have helped put this in context for you. Do your best to not worry about it. But if your fears and concerns continue, the next step should be to consider professional counseling about it. I suggest it from compassion, not criticism.

Best wishes--  HHH, MD


---
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
37 months ago
No follow-up comments/questions for a week. Your posting fee entitles you to one more. If you have another comment or question, please post it in the next 24 hours, at which time this thread will be closed. Thanks!


---