Human Papillomavirus (HPV): Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment


What is Human Papillomavirus (HPV)?

HPV or the Human Papillomavirus is a virus group. There are various strains of HPV that can cause you to develop warts on your throat, mouth, hands and feet. There are around 40 strains that can develop infections within your genitals like your anus, scrotum, butt, vagina, penis and the vulva.

Genital HPV is a common STI or STD that is all over the globe. The WHO has estimated that more than 290 million women had HPV in 2013. The HPV infection is the cause for more than 500,000 cases of cervical cancer every year, that is over 85% of those that happen in developing countries.

HPV can be seen as being high risk or low risk. The low risk types are able to cause you to develop genital warts. The high-risk strains are the ones that can cause you to develop cancer in your penis, anus, the vulva, and vagina. Yet, strains of HPV which cause the development of genital warts are not the same ones that can cause you to develop cancer. Although, if you have genital warts, then you could have already been exposed to strains of HPV that turn into cancer.

HPV is able to be spread by sexual contact during anal or vaginal sex with a person who has been exposed to HPV. HPV can spread between sexual partners without there being a penis. It can be spread between women during skin to skin contact. Latex barriers or condoms don’t completely stop the transmission of HPV. Many people who have been diagnosed with HPV didn’t know that they had it because there weren’t any symptoms, but they were able to pass it on to someone else.

Even though many people will be exposed to HPV and become infected at some point. Although, 9 out of 10, the body will destroy the HPV naturally after 2 years. Because HIV can weaken the immune system, those who have HIV are more likely to get HPV. A study recently shown that HPV happens in 3 out of 4 women who have HIV. Women who have HIV and HPV are more likely to have:

  • High Risk HPV that develops into cancer.
  • High Risk HPV that develops into cervical or anal cancer.
  • Several strains of HPV at once.
  • HPV that does not respond well to treatment. Multiple therapies are needed using various methods.
  • Once HPV is cleared, it comes back after successful treatment.
  • Hard time naturally killing the infection.

If you have sex, it is vital that you get checked by your doctor for any signs of HPV like anal cancer, cervical cancer, or genital warts.

Quick snapshot

Can it be cured?

Yes. Viruses don't have cures, but symptoms can be controlled with proper treatment.

Type of Infection

Viral. The human papillomavirus is the cause of the infection.

How is it treated?

The virus itself has no treatment. However, various treatments exist for the genital warts it sometimes causes.

Recovery Time

As there is no treatment for the virus, it will most likely be carried for life, and thus there is no time line for recovery.

Can I have sex?

Yes. However, partners should be informed of your condition and condoms should always be used.

Can I get re-infected?

Yes. There are many strains of HPV and even if you carry one strain, you can still be infected with another.