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Can human papillomavirus (HPV) infection be cured?

Dr. Jill A. Grimes, MD
Family Practitioner

No, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection cannot be cured. Treatments can remove visible warts, but recurrence is common, and infectivity is permanent. Infectivity is thought to be greater when there are untreated, visible warts.

Seductive Delusions: How Everyday People Catch STDs

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Seductive Delusions: How Everyday People Catch STDs

Anyone can catch a sexually transmitted disease. STDs are widespread in all walks of life, regardless of gender, race, social status, or education. Seduced into complacency by the notion that "it...
Dr. Diane Harper
Health Education Specialist

As with most viruses, we do not have a cure for the virus. 

The immune system can identify some of the HPV infections and clear them permanently. When the immune system cannot detect the HPV infection, though, then that infection can stay in your cells. The HPV waits for the cell signal to replicate and start to cause cervical skin cell changes. It can take decades for this signal to be received, so an infection that you got as a young person may not be detected until you are in your 40's or older. 

We treat the cells that have been changed by the virus in two cases. In the case of genital warts, we can cut, burn, laser, freeze or chemically treat them to try to get the immune system to identify and clear the HPV. Often several treatments will be necessary.

We also treat cells that have been changed by the virus into a precancerous lesion. We do this by freezing or by surgically excising it.

There is a vaccine to prevent HPV and recent studies have found a drug used to treat HIV is able to cure or improve conditions around the disease. Watch Robin Miller, MD, explain the findings and why a possible cure is a big success.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection cannot be cured. However, it can resolve or come and go. Also, there is treatment for the conditions HPV can cause.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.