We all want to protect each other and ourselves from infections like HPV, and learning more about it is an important first step.

The initials – HPV- are used to abbreviate the name of the virus, human papillomavirus. More than 100 types of HPV have been found, and about 40 of these are capable of infecting men and women.

The virus is so common that we believe three out of four people (if not every body) who have sex will have it in their lives; prevailing more between the ages of 15 and 25. HPV may infect not only the genital organs but the mouth, throat and anus as well. Surprisingly enough most of the people won’t develop any symptoms, which makes control of transmission more difficult to prevent.

The infection is spread through genital contact, most often during vaginal and anal sex. It may be passed also during oral sex. Since intercourse is not necessary for the virus transmission, same sex partners may acquire it.

What are the potential health problems of HPV?

As I mentioned before, most of the people who acquired HPV do not develop symptoms or health problems. 90% of the time it will be cleared thanks to the body’s immune system. If the body is unable to clear the infection and it persists, it can cause some problems.

All the HPV types are not equal in their effect on the human body. We divided them into two basic categories: high and low risk. This differentiation was made because those that are high risk have more potential to attack normal cells, alter and damage them so they begin to grow differently. These changes may progress to what we consider pre-cancer, or as you have heard dysplasia. In most women the immune system destroys the virus before it causes cancer, and the cells heal. We believe that HPV is linked to basically all cervical cancers. It has been related to cancers of the anus, vulva, vagina and penis as well.

Low risk HPV is known to cause genital warts; these are bumps or groups of them that may appear in different areas like the vagina and surrounding skin, anus, throat and oral cavity.

Since cervical cancer usually presents no symptoms until it is advanced, women should have regular screenings to prevent that precursor lesions progress. We do that through the PAP and HPV tests. These tests have become so powerful in predicting your chances of detecting cancer that currently we recommend a longer interval between them, every 2-3 years (even up to 5 years), as long as you have no risk factors, present normal results in the past and continue proper annual physical examination.

In terms of preventing infection, young women (ages 9-26) can be vaccinated to decrease the chances of acquiring the infection, particularly by the types of HPV that cause most of these health issues. It is also important to limit the number of sexual partners and use male and female condoms. We will be glad to have you in our office if you have not done your routine exam yet, Call us at 954-607-3811 or visit