Understanding HPV: Does It Go Away?

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  • Consuming healthy whole foods, eliminating stress, getting enough sleep and incorporating physical activity into your routine are some of the best natural ways to keep your immune system in top shape
  • Most HPV infections clear without causing any harm

Any person who’s sexually active has probably heard about HPV, or human papillomavirus, as it is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) today. In fact, according to the Cleveland Clinic, HPV is so common that 80 percent of all sexually active people in the U.S. will become infected with it at some point in their lives. The condition is so widespread that 14 million Americans will become newly infected every year.1

Additionally, about 45 percent of men and 40 percent of women are positive for an HPV at any given time.2 But, because there’s often some misinformation about this health problem, many people who test positive for the virus often panic, become disheartened or angry upon learning about their diagnosis. Many relationships have also been wrecked because of an HPV diagnosis, which is often misunderstood.

Here’s a piece of good news, though: Most HPV infections actually go away on their own, and usually without you even knowing you had them, without causing any harm.

Most HPV Infections Clear on Their Own Within Two Years

While anyone who has ever had sexual intercourse is at risk of genital HPV,3 many people actually never know they had the infection because the virus in the majority of cases does not cause any symptoms. This is because most HPV infections in young males and females are “transient,” meaning they eventually go away. Usually, the body clears the infection on its own within one or two years.4

This is all thanks to your body’s immune system. If you have a robust immune system, it will efficiently attack the virus (whether it’s a high-risk or low-risk type5) and clear the infection from your system. According to studies, at least 50 percent of people with HPV will resolve the problem within eight months. Within two years, 90 percent of those who are infected will be cleared of the virus.6

In Some Cases, an HPV Infection May Become ‘Latent’

According to research, there are instances when the human papillomavirus can deeply penetrate the affected skin or mucosa and hide for several years at undetectable levels. These are called “latent” infections. There’s no definite statistic on how many HPV infections become latent, and how many are truly cleared.

A person with a latent HPV infection may test positive for HPV and then test negative for it — this means that either the virus has been completely eliminated from the body or that the level of infection is so miniscule that lab tests no longer detect it. In this case, HPV might “return,” especially if the immune system has weakened (such as due to illness or pregnancy), and cause lesions to appear.7

A Small Percentage of HPV Can Become ‘Persistent’ and Dangerous

In some patients, high-risk HPV infections become persistent and do not clear away even after a couple of years. In this case, the infection can cause cell changes that may progress to cancer. In 1995 when HPV vaccines were being studied, studies showed that of women who were diagnosed with cervical cancer, nearly 28.5 percent had never had a Pap test; 32.8 percent hadn’t had a Pap test in over five years.8

However, remember that this often happens to individuals with high-risk factors, such as smokers, those who have had multiple sex partners and those who are immunosuppressed or have coinfections such as HIV.9 Take note that having one type of HPV does not make you immune to other types. There are over 200 strains of HPV, and being infected with one type will not give you immunity against the rest.10,11

There Is No Cure for HPV — But You Can Keep It From Wreaking Havoc on Your Health

Keep in mind that no cure for the virus currently exists, and if you’ve been infected, your body most likely will clear it on its own. For those that don’t clear, most HPV treatments are usually geared toward alleviating the symptoms associated with the condition, particularly warts.12

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the HPV vaccine can treat the infection. Its manufacturers specifically state that the vaccine cannot treat HPV; the vaccine’s sole purpose is prophylactic, meaning that it’s supposed to prevent targeted HPV types from occurring. Also, the vaccine doesn’t work against any vaccine-relevant HPV that you may be positive for at the time of vaccination.13

Since your immune system is your primary defense against HPV, then it only makes sense to employ immune-boosting strategies to help both prevent it and clear it from your body. Consuming healthy whole foods, eliminating stress, getting enough sleep and incorporating physical activity into your routine are some of the best natural ways to keep your immune system in top shape.

MORE ABOUT HPV

HPV: Introduction

What Is HPV?

Oral HPV

How Is HPV Transmitted?

HPV Vaccine

HPV in Men

HPV in Women

HPV Types

HPV Causes

HPV Symptoms

HPV Warts

HPV Treatment

HPV Test

How to Get Rid of HPV

Living with HPV

Does HPV Go Away?

How Do You Get HPV?

Is HPV Curable?

Is HPV Contagious?

How Long Does HPV Last?

HPV FAQ

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