The human papillomavirus (HPV) has infected roughly 43 million sexually active people in the United States. The good news is that most people’s immune systems can eliminate the virus before it causes any symptoms or severe health challenges. The usual timeframe for the immune system to destroy HPV is two years from the first date of infection.
Unfortunately, this will not be the case for every HPV-infected person because HPV infections differ based on the HPV strain they have. Over 200 different HPV strains exist in the United States and yet, only a handful of HPV strains cause a person to develop unwanted health conditions like genital warts and precancerous cell growth. In the worse cases, a person can even develop cancer.
Therefore, it is best to think of HPV infections in terms of low-risk HPV strains and high-risk HPV strains. The low-risk HPV strains are the ones the immune system can usually destroy without any outside treatment. You may develop genital warts from low-risk HPV strains, but it won’t lead to anything more than that. High-risk HPV strains are the ones that can stimulate precancerous cell growth and potentially cancerous cell growth.
HPV Stays in the Body for Over Two Years?
An HPV-infected person with a healthy immune system should become infection-free within two years. However, if the infection persists past the two-year mark, it could be due to any of the following reasons:
Suppressed Immune System – The infected person may have an immune deficiency condition or some other virus that suppresses their immune system, such as AIDS.
HPV-Modified Cells – Low-risk HPV may remain past the two-year mark and cause more genital warts to grow. You could try having them burnt off or surgically removed, but there is no telling whether they will grow back. If they do grow back, it is likely because the HPV modified your bodily cells in an unhealthy way to allow them to grow back.
Lack of Treatment and Testing – High-risk HPV can cause abnormal cell growth in your mouth, anus, penis, or cervix. It is critical to know as early as possible if you have high-risk HPV because you’ll need regular treatment and monitoring to control the virus. Otherwise, it could lead to the development of precancerous cells.
Only around 10% of high-risk HPV cases result in cancer. But you should still seek professional medical advice and treatment regardless of the strain.
Most HPV-infected people don’t experience any symptoms like genital warts. And unless a person chooses to get tested, they won’t even know they have HPV if no symptoms develop.
Some people with low-risk HPV may develop genital warts, but they will likely disappear after a few years. But still, you should consult your doctor as soon as you notice genital warts, skin tags, or other lesions forming on your genital region. Then you can receive an official diagnosis and treatment.
Doctors recommend women 21 to 29 receive HPV screening and a pap test every three years. After that, women should continue to receive these tests every five years. HPV screening helps diagnose HPV and identify the HPV strain, while a pap test looks for signs of cervical cancer.
Sexually active people with multiple partners may need testing more frequently, especially if experiencing symptoms like vulva itching, penile itching, or genital lesions or warts.
HPV Prevention Tips
Get the HPV vaccination as early as possible. For example, pre-teens in the 11 and 12-year-old range should receive the HPV vaccine from a qualified pediatrician. It is the best way to prevent severe symptoms from a low-risk or high-risk HPV strain.
In addition, anyone up to 45 years old can now receive three vaccinal shots for protection against nine risky HPV strains, including the two most likely to cause cancer. But if you’ve already gotten an HPV infection in the past, the vaccine may be less effective. On the other hand, what have you got to lose? Some protection is better than no protection.