(HPV) are a group of more than 100 viruses. Certain types of HPV can cause
genital warts, which are growths or bumps that appear:
On the vulvaIn or around the vagina or anusOn the cervixOn the penis, scrotum, groin, or thigh
Some strains of HPV are linked to
. Although it is less common, some strains are linked to cancers of the vulva,
, throat, or penis.
HPV is easily spread during oral, genital, or anal sex with an infected partner.
Many people will be exposed to a form of HPV at some point in their lives. Not all will become infected or develop symptoms.
The HPV vaccine contains virus-like particles that are not infectious. These particles produce antibodies to prevent HPV from infecting cells. The vaccine is given by injection into the muscle.
The vaccine Gardasil protects against four types of HPV strains. It may be used to prevent the following conditions:
Cancer of the cervix,
, vulvar, and anus
Precancerous lesions on the genitalsGenital warts
Anal cancerGenital warts
Another vaccine called Cervarix protects against 2 types of HPV strains. It is used to prevent cervical cancer and cervical pre-cancer in women.
The vaccine is recommended for girls as a 3-dose series between 11-12 years old. Girls should be vaccinated before their first sexual contact for the vaccine to be most effective. Girls and women aged 13-26 years who did not receive the HPV vaccine when they were younger should still receive the vaccine series.
It is recommended that boys receive 3 doses of Gardasil beginning at age 11-12 years. Boys and men aged 13-21 years who did not receive the HPV vaccine when they were younger should still receive the vaccine series.
Men aged 22-26 years may also be vaccinated. Men in this age group should be vaccinated if they have sex with other men, have HIV infection, or have a weak immune system due to other illnesses or medications.
Research suggests that the vaccine does not appear to cause any serious side effects. Like any vaccine, it has the potential to cause serious problems, such as a severe allergic reaction.
Some problems have been associated with the HPV vaccines, like pain, redness, swelling, or itching at the injection site. Other side effects include:
HeadacheMild to moderate feverFainting
FatigueHeadacheMuscle painJoint painGastrointestinal symptomsFainting
Do not get the vaccine if you: Had a life-threatening allergic reaction to yeast or any other component of the vaccineAre a pregnant woman (the effects are still being studied)Are moderately or severely ill (wait until you have recovered)
Avoiding physical contact with an infected sexual partner is the only way to completely prevent the spread of an HPV infection.
may help reduce the spread of HPV infection and genital warts. However, condoms are not 100% effective because they cannot cover the entire genital area.
Other preventive measures include: Sexual abstinenceHaving only one sexual relationship (monogamous)
Regular check-ups for
sexually transmitted diseases
for women (starting at age 21)
According to the CDC, about 6 million new cases of sexually transmitted HPV infections are reported each year. Twenty million people in the US are already infected. HPV vaccines cannot treat infections that already exist. The best way to prevent further spread of the disease is to get the vaccine before becoming infected.