Human papillomavirus (HPV) is so common that nearly everyone who is sexually active will get the infection at some point in their life if they don’t have the HPV vaccine; in fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that there were around 43 million HPV infections in the U.S. in 2018 alone [1]. One of the possible reasons it’s so prevalent? HPV isn’t exactly just one virus; there are actually over 100 different types of HPV.

With so many different strains of the HPV virus out there, it’s important to know that not every type will cause health problems or future complications; this is why they are typically categorized into low-risk types and high-risk types with some variants known to cause genital warts and others potentially causing cancer.

Related article: What Is HPV?



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What are the different types of HPV?


There are over 100 types of HPV; some kinds can cause problems such as genital warts and other strains can cause cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, or anus.

The World Health Organization states that at least 14 types of HPV are cancer-causing, also referred to as high-risk types [2]. Statistics estimate that 70% of cancerous or precancerous lesions are caused by types 16 and 18; vaccines exist that protect against both of these types.

On the other hand, there are more than 40 types of HPV that affect the genital area, these are referred to as low-risk types. HPV 6 and 11 are two of the most common low-risk types which are said to cause around 90% of genital warts [3]. Low-risk types don’t cause cancer and can be treated.

Related article: How Do You Get HPV?


How do I know what type of HPV I have?


The American Cancer Society recommends that those aged 25-65 have a primary HPV test every five years [4]. This HPV test looks for HPV, if the virus is present, the test can identify whether it is a HPV type that is more likely to cause cancer. This test can be done on its own or it can be done alongside a pap smear test to determine your risk of developing cervical cancer by identifying cell changes or abnormal cells in the cervix.

Related article: Why is it Important to Check For HPV?


What types of HPV go away on their own?


The type of HPV which causes genital warts can often go away on its own. However, if you are experiencing discomfort, your doctor may recommend medicinal creams or solutions such as Zyclara, Condylox, or Veregen.

There is only a small percentage of genital HPV types which have been linked to cervical cancer. In saying that, regular screening can help detect if there have been any abnormal changes in the cervix caused by genital warts.

Related article: Can You Have Sex With HPV?


One of the most reliable ways to avoid any complications associated with HPV is through regular testing - this can be done with your doctor or from home with an at-home HPV test.

LetsGetChecked’s at-home HPV test detects high-risk strains of cervical cancer. It involves a simple cervical swab sample and online results will be available within 2-5 days. Should you have any questions throughout the process, our dedicated clinical team is there to offer a helping hand, explain your results, and take you through any recommended next steps. This test is not a replacement for regular cervical (pap) smear tests.

You should take the test if*:

  • You have had skin to skin contact with someone who is carrying the HPV virus
  • You have had unprotected sex
  • You have not received an HPV vaccine

*It is important to discuss this test with your doctor if you are outside the recommended age for HPV screening programs.



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References


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HPV Fact Sheet. Online: Cdc.gov
  2. World Health Organization. HPV and Cervical Cancer. Online: Who.int
  3. Mayo Clinic. Genital Warts. Online: Mayoclinic.org
  4. American Cancer Society. The American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Prevention and Early Detection of Cervical Cancer. Online: Cancer.org