Human Papillomavirus

Also known as: HPV.

What is human papilloma virus?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted viral infection in the USA, in which half of cases occur among adolescents and young adults.

It is most frequently spread through unprotected sexual contact with an infected partner, though it can be spread at the time of infant delivery or by non-sexual skin-to-skin routes which is the frequent mode of spread in children.

HPV affects the throat, skin, genital area, and cervix.

What causes human papillomavirus?

The human papillomavirus, which enters the body usually through a break in the skin or mucous membrane, is the direct cause of the infection.

What are the symptoms of human papillomavirus?

There are more than 100 types of HPV and symptoms largely depend on the type. Many children and adolescents experience no symptoms, but others may have warts that are large or small, raised or flat, or domed or cauliflower shaped on the hands, soles of feet, or around the genitals. In some cases, warts are found around the anus.

HPV infection may lead to an increased risk of cancers of the throat, vulva, vagina, cervix, anus, or penis over time.

What are human papillomavirus care options?

A vaccine which includes 2 doses taken 6-12 months apart, is recommended for 11 and 12-year-olds. If the adolescent is older than 14 years, three doses are administered to avoid the risk of cancer related to human papillomavirus later in life. Condoms or other barrier contraceptives can prevent the spread of the virus.

Very often genital HPV infection resolves without treatment within 2 years. Warts may be removed by a variety of both over-the-counter or prescription medications, freezing with liquid nitrogen, or removed surgically. As there is no cure for the HPV, warts can return over weeks to months. Infection of the cervix may require surgery.


Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: August 27, 2021 12:46 PM

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