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Types of HPV: What are the Differences and Effects?

Medically reviewed by Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD · General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

Written by Hazel Caingcoy · Updated Jun 18, 2021

Types of HPV: What are the Differences and Effects?

Human Papillomavirus infection is a common viral infection. There are many strains of the HPV virus and they manifest differently in the human body. Most HPV strains do not pose risks but some strains can potentially cause serious health problems. Here are some of the types of HPV you should be aware of. 

What Causes HPV?

An HPV infection happens when the virus enters the body through a cut, scar, or injury in the skin. Primarily, HPV is acquired through skin-to-skin contact

Genital HPV or HPV that infects the sex organs are passed through unprotected vaginal, anal, and oral sex. A person can also get genital HPV by sharing sex toys and getting close contact with an area infected with genital HPV.

HPV can be transmitted even if there is no ejaculation, orgasm, or penetration. 

Types of HPV

There are close to 150 types of HPV and they are divided into two categories:

  • Non-oncogenic or Wart-Causing – Described as low-risk HPV and is the most common type. Wart-causing HPV does not usually cause any serious health issues. 
  • Oncogenic or Cancer-causing – Described as high-risk and is the type of HPV that can cause cancers. 

Low-Risk HPV 

Low-Risk HPV or non-oncogenic HPV are known to cause warts: a type of skin growth characterized by raised bumps with a rough or sometimes smooth texture that appears on almost anywhere in the body. 

Warts may come in different forms:

Common Skin Warts – Common skin warts manifest as whitish, brown, or pink bumps that are rough or smooth to the touch. The bumps are painless. These types of warts may appear on the hands, face, scalp, and almost anywhere in the skin. They commonly appear in areas where a previous skin injury occurred. 

Flat warts – Flat warts are slightly raised bumps that have a flat top. It appears in other areas of skin on the chest, wrists, hand, and legs. 

Plantar Warts – Plantar warts are thick and they feel hard and grainy. These warts appear on the soles of the feet. They can cause discomfort and pain. 

Genital Warts – Genital warts appear like small cauliflower bumps that may feel rough to the touch. Genital warts appear in the vulva, vagina, cervix, and around the opening of the anus. It may also appear on the penis and scrotum. Genital warts might itch but they don’t usually cause pain. 

In most cases, HPV infections can be cleared up by the immune system. Majority of the types of HPV go away and become undetectable within two years even if the person has not undergone any treatment for it. 

High-Risk HPV 

Although many types of HPV are not usually life-threatening, at least 12 strains, also known as high-risk strains or oncogenic strains, can lead to cervical cancer

Types 16 and 18 are the cause of the majority of HPV-related cancers. Aside from the cervix, these strains can also lead to cancers in the vagina, vulva, penis, anus, throat, tonsil, and mouth.  

Risk Factors

Everyone from all races and ages can get infected with HPV. Different HPV strains have different risk factors. A person can also get infected with more than one strain. 

Sexual activity – The more sexual encounters a person has, especially if they have more than one partner, the more likely they are to develop HPV infections.

Age – In children, skin warts are more common, while genital warts are more prevalent in adults.

Weak immune system – People who have a weak immune system such as HIV positive individuals or people who have autoimmune diseases are highly susceptible to having HPV infections since the immune system cannot clear the infection out on their own.

Skin injury – Having scratches, cuts, and other open wounds makes a person prone to having HPV infections.

Direct contact – Touching someone infected with HPV can put a person at risk of acquiring the virus. A simple handshake with someone who has warts in their hand can increase a person’s risk of infection. 

Indirect contact – Using shoes and towels of a person who has HPV infection increases the risk of having the virus. Being in moist places exposed to a person with HPV such as pools and changing rooms can also promote transmission of the virus. 

Poor hygiene – Not taking a bath especially after a dip in the pool or not washing your hands often and properly puts you at risk of acquiring the virus. 

Key Takeaways

HPV is a virus that has a lot of strains. Low-risk strains cause skin and genital warts while high-risk strains cause cancers in the reproductive systems of both male and females. High-risk strains can also cause cancers in the mouth. Everyone is at risk of developing HPV infections. 

Learn more about HPV here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD

General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

Written by Hazel Caingcoy · Updated Jun 18, 2021

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