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Of all of the sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, HPV is the most common. There are more than 40 HPV types that can infect the genital areas of males and females.
These infections are not limited to affecting the genitals, however. They can also affect the mouth and throat and, in some instances, people who are infected will not be aware of it.
HPV is not the same as herpes or HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). These are all viruses that can be passed on during sex, but they cause different symptoms and health problems.
For most people, the body’s immune system will naturally "clear" the infection within a two year period but according to EmpowHER writer Bonnie Diraimondo, RN, an HPV expert, the virus actually goes dormant in the body and never really leaves.
Many people do not develop symptoms. But in certain cases, the infection can causes the following:
• Genital warts can grow and change, but they will not become cancer. They come in all shapes and sizes, from small and bumpy to raised and flat. They can even be shaped like cauliflower.
• Cervical cancer and other, less common but serious cancers, including cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and oropharynx (back of throat including base of tongue and tonsils).
• RRP (recurrent respiratory papillomatosis) is a rare condition where warts appear in the throat. These growths can sometimes block the airway, causing a hoarse voice or troubled breathing. When this occurs in children it is called juvenile-onset RRP (JORRP).
Wart-causing HPV and cancer-causing HPV are not the same. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to foresee which patients who have contracted HPV will develop health problems or cancer.
How to detect signs and symptoms caused by HPV:
Pap smears are crucial for women, largely due to the fact that they pick up on early signs of cervical cancer. Most women don’t experience discomfort or any real symptoms of cervical cancer at all until it is in a late stage of development.