HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. It is so common that many experts consider it to be an unavoidable consequence of normal sexual activity.
About 80% of all sexually active women and men are infected with HPV at some point during their lifetime, but most never know they have the virus. For the majority of people, HPV is harmless and does not cause any symptoms.
You can get HPV through oral, vaginal or anal sex with someone that has the virus, even if the infected person shows no signs or symptoms.
All sexually active people can get HPV, even if they are only having sex with one person. Furthermore, symptoms can appear years after infection, so there is no way to know which partner the infection came from or how long ago it occurred.
HPV is a common infection that is often cleared naturally by the immune system. About 9 out of 10 HPV infections resolve on their own within two years.
When HPV does not go away on its own, it can cause health problems such as genital warts or precancerous lesions. Treatments are currently available that help to fight the infection and heal the affected areas.
Most women with an HPV infection have the virus for months or even years without showing any symptoms.
Some women infected by low-risk types of HPV can experience genital warts, which are not a serious condition. However, some women who are infected by high-risk HPV types can develop non-visible cell changes which sometimes lead to cancer, including cervical, vaginal, vulvar, anal, head and neck cancers.
About 10% of women infected by high-risk HPV types will not naturally clear the infection by themselves, developing persistent infections over time. This persistence of the HPV is the main cause for the development of lesions on the cervix, which in some patients can ultimately lead to cervical cancer.
Remember that these lesions on the cervix are asymptomatic and cannot be felt. The only way to detect them is by visiting your gynaecologist, who will perform some simple tests to check for the presence of lesions, carry out the follow-up and decide on any treatment.
HPV infection does not affect fertility. Your reproductive ability is not diminished.
HPV infection does not have any consequences for your unborn child. In some cases, if a woman develops genital warts in the birth canal, which is extremely unusual, she can transmit the virus to the baby.
Men can also be infected by HPV, just like women. HPV infections in men affect the throat and the anogenital area. However, genital warts are less common and HPV-associated cancers are rare. Cancers associated with HPV in men include anal, penile and oral cancers, but these are less common.
As HPV is asymptomatic, partners tend to share it without even knowing. Remember that 80% of sexually active people become infected at some time in their lives, and in certain cases symptoms appear many years after the infection. This makes it difficult to know when and from whom you got the infection. For this reason, it is important to inform sexual partners that you have been diagnosed with HPV.
Proper condom use is important with any new sexual partner. It has been shown to significantly reduce the incidence of both genital warts and precancerous lesions. It is important to note that the condom only protects the covered area and potentially infectious areas can still be exposed, the protection is not complete.
HPV infections typically resolve naturally thanks to our immune response. For this reason, it is really important to have a strong immune system and optimal vaginal health to help fight against HPV infection, as well as to reduce the possibility of infection by other pathogens.
It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Smoking and drinking alcohol can increase the risk of persistent HPV infection and facilitate the development of cervical lesions.