Coping With Human Papillomavirus Infection (HPV)

If you or your partner have just been diagnosed with human papillomavirus (HPV), you're certainly not alone. HPV infection is the most common sexually transmitted infection. In fact, it is thought that just about anyone who has had sex has been exposed to HPV.

If you feel stressed about your HPV diagnosis, know there are a few things you can do to help cope with this infection.

How to Cope With HPV.

Ellen Lindner / Verywell

This article will explain how HPV is diagnosed and ways to boost your immune system to help your body fight this virus. It will also cover where to find support, as well as how this diagnosis may impact your sex life.

How Is HPV Diagnosed?

There are typically two ways that you can find out that you have HPV. You may be diagnosed with genital warts, which are raised or flat bumps, or you may test positive for HPV on a screening test, called a Pap smear.

What happens next depends on your specific symptoms and screening test. Your healthcare provider will recommend the appropriate treatment or follow-up. Keep in mind that most cases of HPV go away without treatment within two years.

HPV Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next healthcare provider's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Woman

How Do You Boost Your Immune System to Fight HPV?

There are some things you can do to boost your immune system and help your body clear the virus.

You may also want to speak with your doctor about getting the HPV vaccine. Even if you already have HPV, getting the vaccine can help prevent you from getting other types of it, including ones that can lead to cancer.

Quit Smoking

If you are a current cigarette smoker and you have HPV, you should do your best to quit smoking.

Smoking is thought to decrease your immunity, which impacts your body's ability to fight off illnesses, including the HPV infection. Those who smoke are also at a higher risk for getting multiple HPV infections.

Decrease Stress

When your body's stress hormone levels increase, your immune system doesn't work as well as it should. This means you can't fight off infections, like HPV, very effectively.

Making changes in your life to reduce your stress level is very important. Activities like yoga, connecting with friends, and meditation can help decrease the effects of stress on your body.

Review Your Diet

There is some disagreement among experts on whether or not diet plays a role in helping your body get rid of HPV.

There is some thought that certain B-complex vitamins are effective in boosting your immune system. These include riboflavin (B2), thiamine (B1), vitamin B12, and folate. Making sure your diet includes foods rich in these B vitamins is certainly not harmful and may be helpful.

How Do You Find Support for HPV?

Being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection can be very stressful, but you should not be embarrassed about having HPV. You might be surprised that once you open up to trusted family or friends about your diagnosis, you will find that many people have dealt with this infection.

Talk with your healthcare provider about local resources for individuals diagnosed with HPV. For online support groups, you can check out the American Sexual Health Association website.

Remember that HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and you are not alone.

Recap

Speak with your doctor or visit the American Sexual Health Association website for resources for individuals diagnosed with HPV.

Does HPV Impact Your Sex Life?

Being diagnosed with HPV is not a fatal blow to your sex life. You may just need to sit out a few weeks if you are being treated for genital warts. Keep in mind having one sexual partner and using protection can help lower your risk of getting another sexually transmitted infection.

Because genital warts are so easily transmitted from skin-to-skin contact, your current sex partner may also want to get checked for them.

Summary

You may find out that you have HPV through a routine Pap smear, or if you are diagnosed with genital warts. While most cases of HPV clear on their own within two years, your doctor may also recommend treatment for your specific symptoms, as well as support resources.

To help boost your immune system so your body can fight HPV, you may consider quitting smoking, decreasing your stress level, and altering your diet.

Keep in mind that HPV is very common and you are not alone.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you know if you have HPV?

    Most people with HPV don't show any symptoms. Only individuals with a cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina, are able to get tested. However, if you or your partner notice genital warts, you should reach out to a doctor right away.

  • Is HPV a lifelong infection?

    Not typically. HPV infections often go away without treatment within a few months, and about 90% clear on their own within two years. However, some individuals may have long-term symptoms or develop cervical cancer. 

  • How do you know when HPV is gone?

    If you don't have symptoms, you may not know when the infection has cleared your system. If you have symptoms, your doctor will be able to tell you when you no longer have the infection.

Was this page helpful?
10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital hpv infection - fact sheet.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital hpv infection - fact sheet.

  3. Nemours TeensHealth. Can getting the hpv vaccine help if i already have genital warts?

  4. Eldridge RC, Pawlita M, Wilson L, et al. Smoking and subsequent human papillomavirus infection: a mediation analysisAnnals of Epidemiology. 2017;27(11):724-730.e1 doi:10.1016/j.annepidem.2017.10.004

  5. Cohen S, Janicki-Deverts D, Doyle WJ, et al. Chronic stress, glucocorticoid receptor resistance, inflammation, and disease riskProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2012;109(16):5995-5999. doi:10.1073/pnas.1118355109

  6. Erickson BK, Alvarez RD, Huh WK. Human papillomavirus: what every provider should knowAmerican Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2013;208(3):169–175. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2012.09.007

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital hpv infection - fact sheet.

  8. American Cancer Society. Hpv and hpv testing.

  9. World Health Organization. Human papilloma virus (hpv) and cervical cancer.

  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital hpv infection - fact sheet.