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HPV and You - Risks and Outcomes

HPV stands for human papillomavirus. There are more than 100 types of HPV. Some types produce warts — plantar warts on the feet and common hand warts. About 40 types of HPV can infect the genital area — the vulva, vagina, cervix, rectum, anus, penis, or scrotum.

Genital HPV infections are very common. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. But most people who have HPV don't know it.

  • Most HPV infections have no harmful effect at all.
  • Some types of HPV may cause genital warts. These are called low-risk types of HPV.
  • Some types of HPV may cause cell changes that sometimes lead to cervical cancer and certain other genital and throat cancers. These are called high-risk types.
  • Vaccines can help protect against the strains of genital HPV most likely to cause genital warts or cervical cancer.

Although most HPV infections go away within 8 to 13 months, some will not. HPV infections that do not go away can hide in the body for years and not be detected.

HPV infection occurs when the virus enters your body through a cut, abrasion or small tear in the outer layer of your skin. The virus is transferred primarily by skin-to-skin contact.

Genital HPV infections are contracted through sexual intercourse, anal sex, and other skin-to-skin contact in the genital region. Some HPV infections that result in oral or upper respiratory lesions are contracted through oral sex.

It's possible for a mother with an HPV infection to transmit the virus to her infant during delivery. This exposure may cause HPV infection in the baby's genitals or upper respiratory system.

HPV infections are common. Risk factors for HPV infection include:

  • Number of sexual partners
    • The greater your number of sexual partners, the more likely you are to contract a genital HPV infection.
    • Having sex with a partner who has had multiple sex partners also increases your risk.
  • Age
    • Common warts occur most often in children.
    • Genital warts occur most often in adolescents and young adults.
  • Weakened immune systems
    • People who have weakened immune systems are at greater risk of HPV infections.
  • Damaged skin
    • Areas of skin that have been punctured or opened are more prone to develop common warts.
  • Personal contact
    • Touching someone's warts or not wearing protection before contacting surfaces that have been exposed to HPV — such as public showers or swimming pools — may increase your risk of HPV infection.

Learn more about HPV at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm

If you have questions or concerns about HPV, talk to Dr. Strebel or Dr. Grolle at your next appointment.

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