Question: My girlfriend just found out that she has HPV. What is it? What does this mean for me?

Answer: HPV, human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection and is passed on through genital contact. There are over 100 types of HPV. The most common types causing genital warts are types 6 and 11, and for cervical cancer, types 16 and 18.

Most people do not realize that HPV usually has no signs or symptoms, so those who are infected may not know that they have it or realize that they are passing it on.

Although your girlfriend was diagnosed with HPV and you may have already contracted it, both of you can still be vaccinated. The vaccine protects you against more than just one type of HPV. Make an appointment to see if you are eligible for a vaccination to protect yourself and prevent the potential spread of the infection.

The good news about HPV is that for nine out of 10 people who are diagnosed, the infection will clear within two years.

Most people with HPV do not develop any further health problems, but sometimes these infections do not clear up and can cause genital warts, warts in the throat in rare cases, and cervical or penile cancer. Although there are no treatments for HPV, fortunately there are treatments for these conditions.

If you have questions about an HPV diagnosis and what it means for you, see your doctor.

  - Jie Xu

Jie Xu is a physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology at Riddle Hospital, Main Line Health.