Besides genital warts, an HPV infection can cause these other problems for both
girls and guys:
In females, it can cause problems with the
that may lead to cervical cancer. HPV infection also can lead to cancer
in the vagina, vulva, anus, mouth, and throat.
In males, HPV infection may lead to cancer in the penis, anus, mouth, and throat.
New research suggests that HPV may be linked to heart disease in women.
Both girls and guys can get HPV from sexual contact, including vaginal, oral, and
anal sex. Most people infected with HPV don't know they have it because they
don't notice any signs or problems. People do not always develop genital
warts, but the virus is still in their system and it could be causing damage. This
means that people with HPV can pass the infection to others without knowing it.
Because HPV can cause problems like genital warts and some kinds of cancer,
a vaccine is an important step in preventing infection and protecting against the
spread of HPV.
That's why doctors recommend that all girls and guys get the vaccine at these ages:
Girls: from age 11 or 12 through age 26
Guys: from age 11 or 12 through age 21
If needed, kids can get the vaccine starting at age 9.
How Does the HPV Vaccine Work?
The HPV vaccine is approved for people 9 to 26 years old:
For kids and teens ages 9–14, the vaccine is given in two shots over a 6- to 12-month
For teens and young adults (ages 15–26 in girls and 15–21 in guys), it's given
in three shots over a 6-month period. Young adults who are at higher risk of getting
infected can get it up to age 26.
It works best when people receive all their shots on schedule. If you're under
age 26, and you've missed a shot, you can still catch up. Just ask your doctor about
the best way to do that.
The vaccine does not protect people against strains of HPV that might have infected
them before getting the vaccine. The most effective way to prevent HPV infection is
to get vaccinated before having sex for the first time. But even
if you have had sex, don't give up on getting the vaccine. It's still the best way
to protect against strains of the virus that you may not have come in contact with.
The vaccine doesn't protect against all types of HPV. Anyone having sex should
get routine checkups at a doctor's office or health clinic. Girls should get Pap
smears when a doctor recommends it — usually around age 21 unless there are signs
of a problem before that.
The HPV vaccine is not a replacement for using condoms
to protect against other strains of HPV— and other STDs— when having sex.
What Are the Side Effects of the HPV Vaccine?
Most of the side effects that people get from the HPV vaccine are minor. They
may include swelling or pain at the site of the shot, or feeling faint after getting
the vaccine. As with other vaccines, there is a small chance of an allergic reaction.
A few people have reported health problems after getting the shot. The FDA is monitoring
the vaccine closely to make sure these are not caused by the vaccine itself.
Most people have no trouble with the vaccine. You can lessen your risk of fainting
by sitting down for 15 minutes after each shot.
Protecting Yourself Against HPV
For people who are having sex, condoms offer some protection against HPV. Condoms
can't completely prevent infections because hard-to-see warts can be outside
the area covered by a condom, and the virus can infect people even when a partner
doesn't have warts. Also, condoms can break.
The only way to be completely sure about preventing HPV infections and other STDs
is not to have sex (abstinence).
Spermicidal foams, creams, and jellies have not been proven to protect against HPV
or genital warts.
If you have questions about the vaccine or are concerned about STDs, talk to your