Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects your central nervous system. It happens when the immune system attacks myelin, the protective coating around your nerves. This causes nerve damage and disrupts nerve signaling.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that’s spread through sexual intercourse. In fact, HPV infections are the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It can cause genital warts.
Some types of HPV can lead to various cancers, including cancer of the cervix, vulva, and anus. However, HPV vaccines can protect you from HPV infections. The vaccine contains noninfectious particles that are found on the surface of the virus.
The particles stimulate the body to create antibodies. If you’re exposed to the HPV virus later on, your body can produce the same antibodies and prevent the virus from causing an infection.
The HPV vaccine is safe. Still, there’s controversy surrounding its role in autoimmune diseases, especially MS. This is due to the high rate of MS in adolescent females, who are most likely to get the HPV vaccine.
But according to current research, there’s no link between HPV vaccination and MS. Read on to learn what the science says so far.
HPV does not cause or contribute to the development of MS.
In a small 2019 study, researchers found a high rate of autoimmune disease in women with HPV. It’s thought that infectious agents, such as viruses, can contribute to autoimmune diseases in people who are genetically predisposed.
But HPV has not been associated with all autoimmune diseases. Instead, it has mainly been linked to systemic lupus erythematosus. A
While viruses can cause or contribute to MS, this does not include HPV.
According to a 2022 report, the Epstein-Barr virus may play a role in MS. This virus is part of the herpesvirus family. Another 2022 review article found that the human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) might cause MS as well.
However, there’s no research suggesting that HPV infections can lead to MS.
Despite the controversy between HPV vaccines and MS, research has failed to find a link between the two.
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In another 2017 study, researchers monitored adolescent females for 6 years after they received the HPV vaccine. The researchers found no link between HPV vaccination and autoimmune conditions.
There’s no treatment for the HPV infection itself. But there is treatment for genital warts caused by HPV.
The genital warts may be treated with the following topical medications:
- trichloroacetic acid
Imiquimod, which stimulates the immune system, is the only medication that has a link to MS. It can aggravate existing MS, which is likely due to its effect on the immune system.
Therefore, imiquimod is only used to treat genital warts in people who have a healthy immune system.
The HPV vaccine is not for everyone.
It’s not recommended for people older than age 26. That’s because most sexually active adults are already exposed to HPV, so the vaccine will be less beneficial.
But in some cases, a doctor might recommend the vaccine if you’re between 27 to 45 years old. This depends on your risk for an HPV infection.
A doctor is the best person to determine if you need the vaccine.
Some people are concerned that the HPV vaccine can cause or contribute to MS, an autoimmune disease. However, recent research has failed to find a link. There’s no hard evidence that the HPV vaccine can lead to MS.
Additionally, MS may be triggered by certain viruses, but not HPV. Research has not determined that an HPV infection plays a role in MS.
Genital warts caused by HPV may be treated with a medication that modulates the immune system. This drug can stimulate the immune system and aggravate existing MS. Still, research has not found that HPV medications directly cause MS.