Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the human papillomavirus. There are over 100 types of HPV, and around 40 of these can infect the genital area. HPV is the most common STI in the United States, and it is estimated that around 80% of sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives. While most HPV infections do not cause any symptoms and clear up on their own, some can lead to serious health problems like genital warts and cancer.
Symptoms of HPV
Most people with HPV do not experience any symptoms, and the infection clears up on its own without treatment. However, some types of HPV can cause health problems. Symptoms of HPV may include:
- Genital warts, which appear as a small bump or group of bumps in the genital area. These warts can be raised or flat and may be flesh-colored, white, or pink.
- Anogenital cancers, which include cervical, vaginal, vulvar, penile, and anal cancer. Symptoms may include abnormal bleeding, pain during sex, and discharge.
What causes HPV
HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact, usually during sexual activity. The virus can infect the skin of the genital area, anus, mouth, and throat. The following factors increase the risk of HPV infection:
- Having unprotected sex
- Having multiple sexual partners
- Having sex with someone who has had many sexual partners
- Having a weakened immune system
- Being a woman (certain types of HPV are more likely to cause health problems in women)
HPV in men
Most men with HPV do not experience any symptoms and the infection clears up on its own without treatment. However, some types of HPV can cause genital warts, which appear as small, flesh-colored bumps in the genital area. These warts can be raised or flat and may be painful or itchy. Some types of HPV can also cause cancer, including anal, penile, and oropharyngeal cancer.
HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact, usually during sexual activity. The virus can infect the skin of the genital area, anus, mouth and throat. Men who have sex with men are at a higher risk of HPV infection, as are men with weakened immune systems.
HPV in women
Most women with HPV do not experience any symptoms and the infection clears up on its own without treatment. However, some types of HPV can cause genital warts, which appear as small, flesh-colored bumps in the genital area. These warts can be raised or flat and may be painful or itchy. In some cases, HPV can also cause abnormal cells in the cervix, which can lead to cervical cancer.
Anyone who is sexually active can be affected by HPV. However, certain groups of people are at higher risk of contracting HPV and developing health problems. These groups include:
- People who have unprotected sex
- People who have multiple sexual partners
- People with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or who have had an organ transplant
- Women, who are more likely to develop health problems from certain types of HPV, including cervical cancer
Most HPV infections do not cause any symptoms and can only be detected through a screening test. In women, this may involve a Pap smear, which looks for abnormal cells in the cervix. In men and women, a healthcare provider may use a test that looks for the genetic material (DNA) of the virus in a sample of cells from the genital area. This is known as an HPV test.
There is no cure for HPV, but most infections clear up on their own without treatment. However, if the infection is causing health problems or symptoms, there are treatments available. The treatment options for HPV depend on the type of HPV and the health problems it is causing. Some treatment options for HPV include:
- Topical treatments: Topical treatments are applied directly to the warts to help remove them. These treatments include creams, ointments, or solutions. Some topical treatments may be available over the counter, while others require a prescription from a healthcare provider.
- Cryotherapy: Cryotherapy involves freezing the warts with liquid nitrogen. The liquid nitrogen freezes the warts, which causes them to fall off. Cryotherapy may be done in a healthcare provider’s office and is a relatively simple and painless procedure.
- Surgical removal: Surgical removal involves cutting the warts off the skin. This is done using a scalpel or other surgical instruments. This procedure is usually done in a healthcare provider’s office under local anesthesia.
- Laser treatment: Laser treatment involves using a laser to remove the warts. This is a more expensive treatment option and is usually reserved for more severe cases of HPV.
It’s important to note that while these treatments can help to remove warts and other symptoms of HPV, they do not cure the underlying HPV infection. Once you have been infected with HPV, the virus may stay in your body for years or even your whole life. That’s why it’s important to take steps to prevent HPV infection in the first place.
If you are experiencing symptoms of HPV or are at risk of developing health problems from the infection, talk to your healthcare provider about screening and treatment options. Your healthcare provider can help you determine the best course of treatment based on your individual situation.
Complications of Human Papillomavirus Infection
Most HPV infections do not cause any complications and clear up on their own without treatment. However, certain types of HPV can cause health problems that can be serious. Some complications of HPV infection include:
- Genital warts, which can be unsightly and uncomfortable. While these warts are not cancerous, they can be spread to other people during sexual activity.
- Cervical cancer, which is the most common cancer caused by HPV. Cervical cancer can be prevented with regular Pap tests and early detection.
- Other types of anogenital cancer, including vaginal, vulvar, penile, and anal cancer.
- Oral cancer, which is a rare complication of HPV infection but is becoming more common in recent years.
Preventing Human Papillomavirus Infection
The best way to prevent HPV infection is to practice safe sex. This means using condoms every time you have sex, although condoms may not fully protect against HPV as the virus can still be spread through skin-to-skin contact. Other ways to prevent HPV infection include:
- Getting vaccinated. There are vaccines available that protect against certain types of HPV, including the types that cause most cases of cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine is recommended for all boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 12, although it can be given up to the age of 26.
- Limiting sexual partners. The more sexual partners you have, the greater your risk of contracting HPV.
- Getting regular Pap tests. Women should have a Pap test every three years, starting at age 21. The test looks for abnormal cells in the cervix that could develop into cancer.
- Quit smoking. Smoking can increase the risk of cervical cancer in women with HPV.
Is HPV an STD?
Yes, HPV (human papillomavirus) is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). HPV is primarily spread through sexual activity, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex, as well as skin-to-skin contact with the genital area of an infected person.
What percentage of high-risk hpv turns to cancer?
Not all high-risk types of human papillomavirus (HPV) will develop into cancer, and the risk of developing cancer depends on several factors. In general, most high-risk HPV infections do not cause cancer, and the immune system can usually clear the infection without any symptoms or health problems. However, in some cases, high-risk HPV infections can cause abnormal cell changes in the body, which can lead to cancer over time.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States, the majority of high-risk HPV infections do not cause cancer, and most people with HPV will not develop cancer. However, some types of high-risk HPV, such as types 16 and 18, are responsible for most cases of cervical cancer. In women, it is estimated that about 70% of cervical cancers are caused by HPV types 16 and 18.
It’s important to note that the risk of developing cancer from an HPV infection can be influenced by several factors, including age, immune system health, and other environmental and lifestyle factors. Regular screenings, such as Pap tests and HPV tests, can help to detect abnormal cell changes in the body and prevent the development of cancer. If you have questions about your risk of developing cancer from an HPV infection, talk to your healthcare provider.
Can a man give a woman HPV?
Yes, a man can give a woman human papillomavirus (HPV) through sexual activity. HPV is primarily spread through skin-to-skin contact with the genital area, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex. When a man has HPV, the virus can be present on his skin or in bodily fluids such as semen or pre-ejaculate, and it can be transmitted to his sexual partner during sexual activity.