Authored by Revere Health

HPV: More Common Than You Think

September 5, 2018 | Family Medicine

Human papillomavirus virus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STI), but don’t confuse HPV with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or herpes simplex (HSV). Although HIV and HSV are also STIs, each of these viruses is much different than HPV.

What is HPV?

HPV usually causes warts. There are over 100 varieties of the virus, and different types can cause warts on different parts of your body, including your feet, hands, face, neck, and genitals. Typically, when doctors refer to HPV, it’s the virus that causes warts on your genitals.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of HPV?

Genital HPV is spread by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with another person who is infected, and it can be passed to someone else, even if the infected person does not have any symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that “most people with HPV do not know they are infected and never develop health problems or symptoms.”

This is usually because the immune system defeats the infection before warts are formed.

Genital warts can appear on the anus, cervix, scrotum, thigh, or penis, though they may not show up for weeks, months, or even years after the transmission. Some warts are shaped like cauliflower and may be raised, flat, pink, or flesh-colored. In some cases, you may have only one wart.

It’s important to remember that you can get HPV through just one sexual encounter, so it’s critical to use prevention techniques to avoid complications.

Complications of HPV

HPV can cause cancer in the cervix, vulva, anus, penis, and vagina. However, it can take years for these cancers to develop. People who have weakened immune systems may be more likely to have complications from HPV.

How Much of the Population Has It?

According to the CDC, about 79 million Americans are infected with HPV, and about 1 percent of sexually active adults in the United States have genital warts. The CDC estimates that practically everyone who is sexually active will get HPV at some time in their lifetime unless they get the HPV vaccine. About 19,400 women and 12,100 men in the United States are affected by cancers caused by HPV.

How is HPV Treated?

The virus itself is not treatable, but you can get treatment for related health problems. Your healthcare provider can treat genital warts with prescription medication, for example.

There are many things you can do to lower your risk of contracting HPV:

  • Teens should be vaccinated to protect against cancers caused by HPV. The recommended age is 11 or 12 for boys or girls, but catch-up vaccines are available for men up to age 21 and women up to age 26.
  • If you are a woman, get screened for cervical cancer.
  • If you are sexually active, always use latex condoms. Keep in mind that HPV can infect areas that aren’t covered by the condom.
  • Be in a monogamous relationship. The fewer sexual partners you have, the less likely you are to get the virus.

Talk to your healthcare provider about HPV to get more information about staying healthy.

Dr. Oneida practices the full range of family medicine including obstetrics, pediatrics, adolescent medicine, adult medicine, and some orthopedics. She also performs colposcopy, cryotherapy, and vasectomies. Due to the volume of deliveries done, her practice has evolved to be more centered on women and children’s medicine, although she enjoys all aspects of family medicine. 



“Genital HPV Infection – Fact Sheet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“HPV Infection.” Mayo Clinic.

“How do I know if I have HPV?” WebMD. WebMD


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.