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Avatar universal

Can strong immune systems get rid of HPV permanently?

Hello doctors,

I'm a 26 year old female, recently married. About a week ago I noticed I had genital warts. I already saw my obgyn and we will begin treatment this week. My 29 year old husband does not have any visible warts, but of course we know he has the HPV virus. I have several questions:

1. Both of us exercise regularly, eat very healthy, and take vitamins on a daily basis. Is there a way to get rid of the virus by having a strong immune system? I've read that the virus never goes away that stays in a "dormant state." This is depressing to know. Please let me know if there's any slight possibility or studies that have shown that a strong immune system can permanently rid the virus?

2. If my warts go away, and my immune system fights the virus can he give it back to me or vice versa? Can we give the virus back and forth to each other?

3. I've read about the HPV vaccine for prevention? Can we still have the HPV vaccines AFTER contracting HPV? Would it be effective?

4. Has there been any studies of this type of "low-risk" HPV leading to other health complications even  IF TREATED. I read something about HPV leading to heart conditions in women. I just wanted to ask the experts to make sure these are not myths.  

5. Last, how can this affect our pregnancy plans? We're planning to have a baby a year or two from now. But I'm scared that my warts may come back and that I may give them to my future baby during labor.

Thanks for your time in reading all my concerns!

Looking forward to hearing back from you!

4 Responses
239123 tn?1267651214
MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
Welcome to the forum.  Thanks for your question.

Responding first to the title, before reading anything else:  Almost all HPV infections are cleared by the immune system over a period of several months, sometimes up to a couple of years.  This is pretty much the same in everyone regardless the "strength" of the immune system.  

Now I have read your question.  Sorry to hear of your diagnosis of genital warts.  But it sounds like you have an appropriately sober, non-panicked perspective about it (different from most questions on this forum!).  I'll go directly to your question.

1) As suggested above, your generally healthy state doesn't have much to do with this -- either the appearance of warts or their anticipated clearance.  It is true that HPV DNA often (usually?) persists for years in affected tissues, and can sometimes reactivate.  But usually this doesn't happen, and in general, once visible evidence of HPV (warts, abnormal pap smear, etc) is gone, typically there in no future recurrence or transmission risk.  So at a practical level, the infection can be considered cured by the immune system.

2) Couples probably do not "ping pong" HPV back and forth.  Once cleared by the immune system -- or by the combination of immunity plus treatment -- people are highly resistant to the same HPV type.

3) Immunization has no effect on existing HPV; it only prevents new infections.  It certainly is effective for that purpose, regardless of past HPV.  However, at your age the statistical likelihood is very low, which is why the vaccine is not formally approved (or covered by most insurance) after age 26.

4) As the term itself implies, low risk HPV types, including those that cause most warts, very rarely cause serious health problems.

5) This shouldn't delay your plans for conception.  However, once pregnant, you'll need to tell your Ob about your past warts so she can be on the lookout for recurrence.  Vaginal delivery in the presence of warts risks HPV infection of the baby's larynx, which sometimes is serious.  But prevention is easy, although it sometimes means a cesarean section.

I hope this information has been helpful.  I suggest you also discuss all this with the doctor treating you, perhaps printing out this thread as a framework for discussion.  I'll bet you'll find we pretty much agree with one another.

Best wishes-- HHH, MD
Avatar universal
Thank you so much for your helpful response! I will definitely discuss with my OB/GYN.

Have a great day!
Avatar universal
Dr. Handsfield,

Thank you so much for your help. I try to have a sober perspective and focus on the solution rather than the problem, but every time I think my husband (who is also a doctor) gave me a virus because of the irresponsible and careless decisions he made in his past, I break down and all of this becomes very hard for me to accept. I know he had no idea he had the virus until now, but I've always been very responsible and healthy and all of this seems unfair. I never imagined that the man I would marry for the rest of my life would cause this harm to me. I really want this virus to go away!

My follow-up questions:

1. How long should it take for the warts to go away using Aldara treatment?

2. How long should I wait to have unprotected sex with my husband?

3. Can a person carry and transmit different strains of the HPV virus? The 6 and 11 and also the cancerous type? Although my PAP smear showed negative, it was done in December and I'm worried that I might have the dangerous type of virus. Do you recommend immunization to prevent other types of HPV?

Thanks!
239123 tn?1267651214
MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
Whoa!  I've just lost my confidence about your seeming sober and calm approach.  Your perception of HPV risks is badly flawed and your blame of your husband badly misplaced.  That "my husband gave me a virus because of the irresponsible and careless decisions he made in his past" is simply wrong.  And it is a sad commentary on your understanding to feel "that the man I would marry for the rest of my life would cause this harm to me".

First, you can't assume you originally caught the virus from him.  Assuming you were not a virgin when you and he became a couple, it is equally likely you are infected from some other, distant past partner.  

Second, the frequency of HPV, warts, abnormal pap smears is virtually the same in people with only a couple of lifetime sex partner and those with hundreds.  Almost all sexually active people get genital HPV at least once, often several times.  You were no more likely to have this problem because you joined your life with this particular person than any other partner you might have chosen.

Of course all this assumes there have been no other recent partners, either you or your husband.  Of course you can judge this much better than I can.

1) The response to Aldara typicaly takes 4-6 weeks.  In 30% of cases, it doesn't work completely and additional treatment methods are necessary.

2) You should continue your normal sex life with your husband; there is no need to stop sex.  The horse is well out of the barn:  it takes a year or more for warts to show up, once the HPV is acquired or it reactivates.  He has been repeatedly exposed to your HPV infection for at least that long.  Stopping sex now will make no difference in either clearing your warts or the chance he develops warts himself -- which is unlikely.

3) Multiple HPV infections are pretty common, but in your case, it's probably unlikely -- assuming your current infection is a late recurrence and not recently acquired.  The low risk types like HPV 6 and 11, the main causes of warts, virtually never cause cancer or other serious health problems.

I think you might benefit from learning more about HPV in general.  The thread linked below covers some of these basics; please take a look. You can also use the forum's search function to find hundreds of other discussions; or look at some reliable websites, like those of the American Sexual Health Association (www.http://ashasexualhealth.org) or CDC (www.cdc.gov/std).

http://www.medhelp.org/posts/STDs/HPV-Transmission/show/1522088
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