HPV infection is a viral infection that commonly causes skin or mucous membrane growths (warts). There are more than 100 varieties of human papillomavirus (HPV). Some types of HPV infection cause warts and some can cause different types of cancer.
Most HPV infections don’t lead to cancer. But some types of genital HPV can cause cancer of the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina (cervix). Other types of cancers, including cancers of the anus, penis, vagina, vulva, and back of the throat (oropharyngeal), have been linked to HPV infection.
These infections are often transmitted sexually or through other skin-to-skin contacts. Vaccines can help protect against the strains of HPV most likely to cause genital warts or cervical cancer.
SYMPTOMS of HPV infection:
- Genital warts
- Common warts
- Plantar warts
- Flat warts
HPV infection occurs when the virus enters your body, usually through a cut, abrasion or small tear in your skin. The virus is transferred primarily by skin-to-skin contact.
Genital HPV infections are contracted through sexual intercourse, anal sex and other skin-to-skin contacts in the genital region. Some HPV infections that result in oral or upper respiratory lesions are contracted through oral sex.
- A number of sexual partners.
- Age. Common warts occur mostly in children. Genital warts occur most often in adolescents and young adults.
- Weakened immune systems. People who have weakened immune systems are at greater risk of HPV infections. Immune systems can be weakened by HIV/AIDS or by immune system-suppressing drugs used after organ transplants.
- Damaged skin. Areas of skin that have been punctured or opened are more prone to develop common warts.
- Personal contact. Touching someone’s warts or not wearing protection before contacting surfaces that have been exposed to HPV — such as public showers or swimming pools — might increase your risk of HPV infection.
Two doses of the HPV vaccine are recommended for all boys and girls at ages 11-12; the vaccine can be given as early as age 9. If you wait until they’re older, they may need three doses instead of two.
Children who start the vaccine series on or after their 15th birthday need three shots given over 6 months. If your teen hasn’t gotten the vaccine yet, talk to his/her doctor about getting it as soon as possible.
HPV vaccination is also recommended for everyone through age 26 years, if not vaccinated already.
Vaccination is not recommended for everyone older than age 26 years. However, some adults age 27 through 45 years who are not already vaccinated may decide to get HPV vaccine after speaking with their doctor about their risk for new HPV infections and the possible benefits of vaccination. HPV vaccination in this age range provides less benefit, as more people have already been exposed to HPV.
Have you received an HPV vaccine? Will you be considering one soon?