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What Causes Human Papillomavirus Infection (HPV)?

How does HPV spread?

Human Papillomavirus Infection (HPV)
HPV infections often resolve without treatment and do not cause any health problems.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common viral infection that is transmitted through sexual activity.

Papillomaviruses are viruses that infect only humans. It is mainly a skin-borne disease. People can get an HPV infection by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone infected with the virus. People with HPV may not exhibit any symptoms for years after the initial infection.

What causes an HPV infection?

Some of the risk factors for human papillomavirus infection include:

  • Unsafe sex
  • Tobacco use
  • Ultraviolet radiation
  • Folate deficiency
  • Immune suppression
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Prolonged oral contraceptives use
  • High-risk ethnic backgrounds, such as African Americans
  • Having other infections, such as HIV
  • Early and multiple pregnancies

Does HPV cause health problems?

HPV infections often resolve without treatment and do not cause any health problems. However, persisting infection can cause:

How is HPV diagnosed?

Women older than 30 years should have regular screenings. They may undergo the following tests to diagnose HPV:

  • Cervical Pap test: This test uses a sample of cells from the cervix to identify cervical cancer.
  • HPV DNA typing: This test uses a sample of cells from the cervix to determine if it contains genetic material causing cancer.
  • Acetic acid test: This test helps in diagnosing genital warts.
  • Tissue biopsy: This test confirms an HPV infection.

How is HPV treated?

Therapies to treat HPV infection include:

Drug therapy: Medicines are applied topically.

Surgical therapy: When the patients have multiple warts over a large area, surgery is considered.

Children in the age group of nine to 14 receive an HPV vaccine for prevention.

Lifestyle changes

  • Avoid skin-to-skin contact and sexual contact with your partner after warts appear.
  • Use safe sex by using latex condoms. Condoms, however, do not guarantee complete protection from HPV.
  • Only have sex with someone who only has sex with you (monogamy).
  • Eat foods that are rich in folic acid and vitamin B12.

Is HPV dangerous?

HPV infections often resolve without treatment and do not cause any health problems. A persistent HPV infection may lead to warts, cancer of the mouth and throat, and cervical cancer. Virtually all cases of cervical cancer are attributable to HPV infection.

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Reviewed on 6/16/2020
References
Medscape Medical Reference

Genital HPV Infection - Fact Sheet

Human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer
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