Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. HPV is the name of a group of viruses that include more than 100 different types. Thirty of the HPV strains are believed to be sexually transmitted.
HPV infection may cause:
HPV is usually spread by direct, skin-to-skin contact such as during vaginal or anal sex with someone who is infected with HPV. Very rarely, babies are exposed by an infected mother during birth.
HPV can be spread even if you don’t see any warts. Sometimes HPV causes very subtle changes on the skin that are difficult to see with the naked eye. HPV can also live on the skin without causing any warts at all.
Genital warts or cervical dysplasia may appear within several weeks after sex with an infected person or may take months to years to appear or may never appear. This makes it difficult to know exactly when or from whom you got the virus.
Genital warts are growths or bumps that appear on the vulva, in or around the vagina or anus, on the penis, scrotum, or anus. Genital warts may be raised or flat, single or multiple, small or large, pink, red, flesh-colored, or yellow-grey. They may also have a bumpy texture, like cauliflower. Sometimes warts may be too small or too hidden to be seen.
It is unclear whether HPV goes away completely. A recent study used special lab tests to check women for HPV. Of the women who had HPV at their first study visit, 90% tested negative 6 months to 2 years later. Most researchers think this means that HPV does go away for most people.
However, if you come in contact with another type of HPV, you can become infected again.
Ways to reduce your risk of getting HPV:
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