[Question #6226] Clearing HPV

18 months ago
Hello doctor,   I am 33 years of age, male  with possible HPV genital warts.   I did some research about clearing the HPV virus.  I’ve browsed many medical sites and most say it is possible to clear genital warts and the HPV virus within 1 to 2 years but in some cases it may be indefinite.   Clearing  the virus with the immune system seems to be the case for most younger adults under the age 30.  However, The CDC website claims after 30 years of age it’s unlikely.   So, my question is, am I truly stuck with this virus infection?   And from your experience dealing with patients, have you seen men  of my age actually clear the virus or is it rare? 
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
18 months ago
Welcome back, but these questions are essentially re-wordings of the ones addressed by Dr. Hook a few days ago.  I don't really understand what you hope to hear that Dr. Hook didn't cover.

Two main points:  First, it is very unlikely the gential bumps you had were warts. Your description doesn't fit well, and it sounds like the doctor you saw is experienced in recognizing and treating warts and other genital skin consitions. You'lre apparently obsessed over something you never had.

Second, having genital HPV is an expected, unavoidable consequence of being sexual. The vast majority (90% or more) of sexually active people acquire HPV, often several times. Most infections never cause symptoms or disease. Most people continue their normal sexual practices without concern about it. Of course some infections cause problems, but not very frequently; and those problems usually are diagnosed and cured before they become seriously threatening. This is especially true in men. And warts, although unpleasant, should be viewed as an inconvenience, not an important health threat.

Therefore, assuming you have had a normal sex life, with several sex partners in your life, you can be sure you have had HPV. There's a slight chance you're still carrying an active, transmissible infection -- unrelated to your past gential bumps. Are you "stuck with [HPV] forever"? We don't really know. Some experts believe HPV never goes away, that persisting DNA potentially can reactivate. Others believe it is usually entirely cleared by the immune system. What is clear is that delayed recurrence of active HPV (i.e., as warts, abnormal pap smears, skin cancers, or new infection in a partner) is uncommon, whichever biological explanation is correct.

Finally, you needn't worry about transmitting HPV to current or future sex partners. Since most of those persons likely have been exposed and infected several times, some will be immune to whatever HPV type(s) you may (or may not) have. Others might catch HPV from you but will never know it. Sex with you will not materially raise their risk of catching HPV or getting genital warts, an abnormal pap smear, or other HPV problem, whether or not your past penile bumps were warts.

I hope these comments help convince you to move on without worry. This really is a big nothing burger.

HHH, MD
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18 months ago
Thanks for the reply doctor.  I apologize.  You are right.   I may be overacting.  Thank you for your time and have a great day!
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
18 months ago
I'm glad to have helped. Thanks for the thanks.---