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, half the cases occur among adolescents/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 a large number (more than 100) of HPV types, and symptoms depend on the type. Many children/adolescents have no symptoms; others may have warts (large or small; raised or flat, domed or cauliflower shaped) on hands, soles of feet or around the genitals (male; penis-females; vagina) or around the anus (boys and girls).

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 (2 doses, 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: July 13, 2021 04:06 PM

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