What is genital HPV infection?

  • Genital HPV is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV)
  • HPV is the name of a group of viruses that includes more than 100 different types
  • More than 30 of these viruses are transmitted sexually
  • These viruses can infect  the genital areas of men and women including the skin of the penis, the area outside the vagina and anus as well as the linings of the vagina, cervix, or rectum
  • Most people who become infected with HPV will not have any symptoms and will clear the infection on their own
  • Some of these viruses are “high-risk” and may cause abnormal pap smears, cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, or anus
  • Other viruses are “low-risk” types and may still cause abnormal pap smears or genital warts
  • Genital warts are growths or bumps that appear in the genital areas

Transmission

  • The types of HPV that infect the genital areas are spread through skin-to-skin contact
  • Most infections have no signs or symptoms so the infected person is unaware they are infected but still transmit the infection
  • Genital warts are highly transmissible

Diagnosis

  • Most women are diagnosed based on abnormal pap smears
  • A specific test is available to detect HPV DNA in women
  • No HPV test is available for men

Signs and Symptoms

  • Most people who have HPV infection do not know they have it
  • Some people get visible warts or pre-cancerous changes in the cervix, vulva, anus or penis
  • Usually appear as soft, moist, pink, or flesh-colored swellings
  • Can be raised or flat, single or multiple, small or large and sometimes cauliflower-shaped
  • Warts may appear within weeks, months or not at all after infection

Complications

  • Although most resolve without serious consequences, about 10 of the 30 HPV types can lead, in rare cases, to cervical cancer
  • In 90% of women with cervical HPV, the infection will be undetectable in 2 years
  • Persistent infection with “high-risk” may lead to pre-cancerous changes or cancer
  • A Pap test can detect abnormal cells and cancerous cells on the cervix
  • Annual Pap testing can help ensure that pre-cancerous changes in the cervix caused by the HPV infection do not develop into cervical cancer

Treatment

  • There is no cure for HPV virus, although in most women the infection goes away by itself
  • The treatments that are provided are directed to the changes in the skin or mucous membranes that are caused by the HPV infection

Prevention

  • The best way to prevent genital infection by HPV is to abstain or refrain from any genital contact with another person
  • HPV infection can occur in both male and female genital areas that are covered by a latex condom
  • HPV infection can also be found in the genital areas of men and women that are not covered by latex condoms
  • Latex condom use may decrease the risk of infection but the effect of condoms in prevention is unknown
  • Transmission of an STD cannot be prevented by washing the genitals, urinating, and/or douching after sex
  • Cannot be spread through contact with toilet seats, doorknobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, shared clothing, eating utensils
  • Gardisil is the only vaccine that helps protect against 2 types of the HPV virus that cause 70% of cervical cancer and 2 types of the HPV virus that cause 90% of the genital wart cases