How Long Does HPV Last?

HPV virus diagnosis

Story at-a-glance -

  • Most HPV infections clear up on their own within two years or less — although there are some instances where it can linger in the body
  • There are different types of low-risk and high-risk HPV types, but most of them self-resolve

There are numerous myths surrounding HPV, and one of the most popular today is that it is a life-long infection that will never go away. This is not the case, as most HPV infections actually clear up on their own within two years or less — although there are some instances where it can linger in the body.

Basic Facts About the Virus

Human papillomavirus, named as such because it can lead to the appearance of “papillomas” or warts, refers to a group of small, double strand DNA viruses under the Papovaviridae family.1 These viruses can infect stratified epithelium,2 and live on the top skin layer. Contrary to what some people believe, HPV does not thrive in the bloodstream, internal organs or the spinal cord.3

HPV is highly contagious and can be passed on either through direct skin-to-skin contact or sexual contact.4 In most cases, patients with HPV do not show any symptoms, and do not know that they are infected — or have been infected — with the virus.

It Can Take Up to 2 Years for Your Body to Clear the Infection

There are different types of low-risk and high-risk HPV types, but most of them self-resolve. The majority of HPV infections in young women and men are transient, meaning they go away eventually.5 The average duration for a new cervical HPV infection to clear up is said to be within eight months,6 and according to the U.S. CDC, 9 out of 10 HPV infections (90 percent) are resolved within two years’ time.7

This is all thanks to your immune system, which controls and eliminates the virus. As long as your immune system is well-functional and robust, it can attack the virus efficiently, and clear it from your body.8

Be Aware: Sometimes, HPV May Lie Dormant in Your Body

There’s a good amount of research saying that the human papillomavirus can penetrate the skin or mucosa deeply, staying hidden for several years. The infection level is so low that it’s basically undetectable. These are known as “latent” HPV infections.

Those who have a latent HPV infection may test positive for HPV and then get a negative result after some time. This can mean that either the virus has been eliminated from the body completely or that the level of infection is very small and lab tests are no longer able to find it. People with this type of infection should be careful, though, as HPV may “return” if the immune system has weakened. Should this happen, warts or lesions may appear.9

A Robust Immune System Is Necessary to Resolve HPV

As long as your immune system is in tip-top shape, your body will have no issues clearing HPV infections. However, some high-risk infections become persistent and do not resolve even after two years, and instead may cause cell changes that, left untreated, eventually may lead to cancer. This usually occurs in patients with certain risk factors, such as smokers, people with multiple sex partners and those who are immunosuppressed.

Thus, it’s very important to keep your immune system in top performance for it to be able to prevent or banish HPV. Take note of these tips: There’s no cure for the human papilloma virus itself, but there are plenty of ways to manage it and prevent it from affecting your health.10 Make sure to follow these lifestyle reminders:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet. A wholesome diet rich in healthy fats, fresh vegetables, and with moderate amounts of fruits can help bolster your immune system. Ideally, consume vegetables like Brussels sprouts, kale and cabbage, which all have indole-3-carbinol (I3C) that can help eliminate warts. Meanwhile, stay away from trans fats, processed foods, sugars, allergenic foods and stimulants like caffeine.11
  • Stop smoking and drinking alcohol. Both of these habits make the immune system less efficient in fighting off HPV infections. In fact, female smokers are said to have a twofold increased risk of getting cervical cancer compared to nonsmokers.12 Male smokers who have had five or more oral sex partners also have a high risk for oral and throat HPV-related cancers.13
  • Reduce your stress levels. Stress can significantly hamper your immune function.14 Employ strategies to reduce your stress, like yoga, meditation, prayer and Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT).
  • Limit your sex partners. Not only will this prevent spreading the virus, but it can also reduce your chances of being further exposed to HPV. Take note, however, that while using protection like a condom is a wise strategy to reduce your risk of HPV and other sexually transmitted infections, it’s not a fool-proof guarantee, as the virus spreads through skin-to-skin contact. Condoms leave other areas of your genital region, like the anus or scrotum, exposed.15

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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