Oral HPV is caused by a subtype of human papillomavirus that spreads through oral sex. People with oral HPV are often asymptomatic and, therefore, can spread the virus unknowingly. However, rare oral HPV has the potential to turn into oropharyngeal cancer. This article contains information you need to know to minimize your risk of getting oral HPV.
What is oral HPV?
A type of human papillomavirus causes oral HPV. HPV is considered the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the United States. Over 100 strains of HPV have been identified, among which 40 are known to affect your oral cavity and genitals.
Mostly, the immune system clears HPV before it causes symptoms. However, statistics about oral HPV indicate that symptoms of oral HPV develop in 10% of men and 3.6% of women in the U.S.
What is the cause of oral HPV?
People usually get oral HPV by having oral sex. This is because the virus can enter through a cut or tear inside the mouth resulting in Oral HPV.
How does oral HPV spread?
Oral HPV is contracted through oral intercourse or mouth-to-mouth contact. HPV is present in the saliva and mucus of an infected person, and another person can get the infection by contacting the secretions if they have an open sore or cut in their mouth.
Symptoms of Oral HPV
Most people who have oral HPV infections don’t have symptoms. However, since people are unaware they’re infected, they’re more likely to transmit the virus to others.
However, some people may develop oral HPV lesions such as warts on their lips, mouth sores, and warts inside their mouth or throat. These may initially appear as HPV bumps in the mouth and later develop into HPV sores on the tongue.
Does having oral HPV mean cancer?
If you have an oral HPV infection, it does not mean you will get cancer. However, some studies indicate that certain types of HPV, such as HPV-16, can turn into oropharyngeal cancer, but it is a rare possibility. HPV-16 is found in less than 1% of the population, but almost two-thirds of such cancers are associated with HPV.
Some symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer include:
- Trouble swallowing
- Long-lasting or recurrent sore throats
- Coughing up blood
- Unexplained weight loss
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Hoarseness/changes to your voice
- Lumps on the cheeks
- Constant earaches
- Lumps on the neck
HPV throat cancer symptoms can vary from individual to individual, and if you have any HPV in throat symptoms that worry you, be sure to see your doctor immediately.
What’s the oral HPV incubation period?
Most people do not develop any symptoms. However, the average oral HPV incubation period is about three to six months post-exposure. Therefore HPV mouth sores, warts inside their mouth, or wart-like bumps on the back of the tongue can appear during this time.
Does oral HPV go away?
The immune system can clear up most oral HPV infections without treatment, usually in two years. However, in some individuals, the virus stays in their approach. Oral HPV can cause complications or develop into oropharyngeal cancer in these cases.
What are the most significant risk factors for oral HPV?
Some risk factors for oral HPV include:
- Having oral sex: Those frequently involved in oral sexual activity are at higher risk of getting oral intercourse.
- Being male: Compared to women, men have a higher risk of being diagnosed with oral HPV.
- Having multiple partners: Having multiple sexual partners increases your possibility of exposure, ultimately increasing your risk of getting HPV.
- Smoking: Apart from being a risk factor in developing oral cancers, studies have shown that smoking promotes HPV invasion. Moreover, inhaling smoke makes you more prone to create cuts in the mouth and damage to the mucosal lining.
- Drinking alcohol: High consumption of alcohol increases the risk for HPV infections in men. If you drink and smoke both, it puts you even at a higher risk.
- Deep kissing: Research suggests that open-mouth kissing is a risk factor, increasing your risk for oral HPV. It can be passed on by mouth-to-mouth contact, but more research is required to determine the exact transmission mode.
How’s oral HPV diagnosed?
A specific test is unavailable to determine if you have HPV in the mouth or throat. You may notice the lesions or growth, or your doctor may notice lesions on a routine examination or a part of cancer screening. Furthermore, if there is a suspicion, a biopsy is done to see if the growth is cancerous.
What are the treatment options for oral HPV?
HPV usually does not cause any symptoms. A doctor can remove warts if you develop oral warts due to HPV. Treating HPV bumps on the tongue and the lips is easier, but treating the wart-like bumps on the back of the tongue or throat may be challenging because warts may be hard to reach for topical treatments. The following methods are used to treat warts:
- surgical removal
- cryotherapy(the wart is frozen)
- injecting interferon alfa-2B (Intron A, Roferon-A)
How can you prevent oral HPV?
Most organizations do not recommend screening for oral HPV. Some measures that may help prevent HPV include:
- Use dental dams or condoms to prevent transmission while having oral sex.
- Limit your number of sexual partners.
- Know the status of your sexual partners. Ask if they have been tested for STDs.
- If you’re sexually active, get tested for STIs regularly.
- Avoid oral sex if you have a new partner.
- If you have oral sex often, ensure your mouth is examined once every six months for lesions or growths.
- Get the HPV vaccine.
Does the HPV vaccine prevent oral HPV?
Vaccination against HPV involves getting two shots. These are administered 6 to 12 months apart if you are between 9 and 14. If you are above 15, you will most likely receive three shots over six months. Getting all of your shots for the vaccine to be effective is essential.
The HPV vaccine is considered safe and very effective. It reduces your chances of getting HPV-related diseases.
Earlier, the vaccine was available to people up until age 26. Still, according to the new guidelines, people between the ages of 27 and 45 can get Gardasil 9 if they haven’t been vaccinated.
Studies reported a lower incidence of oral HPV infections in adults who received at least one dose of the vaccine. In addition, these vaccines help prevent oropharyngeal cancers associated with HPV as well.
Types of HPV Bumps or Warts on the Tongue
Warts can grow anywhere on the skin. Although bumps or warts on the tongue are uncommon, they can develop due to Human papillomavirus.
Warts are small-sized bumpy growths, often pink, or can be the same color as your skin. Warts can persist for months or a few years. If you have had HPV bumps on your tongue for over six months, you need to consult a doctor immediately to rule out the chances of cancer.
Various strains result in HPV bumps on lips or warts in your mouth. Commonly HPV strains 6 and 11 are behind these bumps on the tongue.
Common warts appear on the hands due to strains 2 and 4. They usually occur in areas of contact or part of the skin where the chances of trauma are higher.
Caused by strains 2, 6, and 11, these bumps related to HPV are found in the genital area. Although, oral sex with an infected individual may result in oral infection.
These growths resemble cauliflower and can occur on the tonsils, palate, pharynx, epiglottis, gums, etc. HPV strain 6 and 11 lead to the development of these types of lesions. These can resolve on their own in a couple of years.
Focal Epithelial Hyperplasia
This is also called Heck’s disease. The bumps on your tongue are due to HPV strains 13 and 32. In this condition, the wart inside your mouth grows in the form of pink, giving it a cobblestone appearance.
Treatment Plan for HPV Bumps on Tongue
Typically, warts resolve on their own without medical treatment. However, topical creams may not be effective inside the oral cavity.
Treatment options include freezing warts with cryotherapy, injecting interferon-alpha inside, or surgical removal.
When to Consult a Doctor
If you have been having oral sex or have any risk factors mentioned in this article, talk with our doctor at Your Doctors Online to determine if you require testing or get your questions answered.
FAQs About Oral HPV Answered By Your Doctors Online Team
A type of human papillomavirus causes oral HPV. Oral HPV is contracted through oral intercourse or mouth-to-mouth contact.
HPV is a prevalent sexually transmitted disease (STD). There are over 100 different subtypes of HPV, amongst which 40 of them are known to affect the oral cavity and genitals.
Mainly, oral HPV does not cause any symptoms. However, some people may develop oral HPV lesions such as warts on their lips, mouth, or throat.
Statistics about oral HPV indicate that symptoms of oral HPV develop in 10% of men and 3.6% of women in the U.S.
Some symptoms include trouble swallowing, recurrent sore throats, coughing up blood, unexplained weight loss, enlarged lymph nodes, changes to your voice, lumps on the cheeks, constant earaches, and lumps on the neck.
The immune system can clear up most oral HPV infections without treatment, usually in two years. However, the virus stays in some individuals and may develop into oropharyngeal cancer.
Studies reported a lower incidence of oral HPV infections in adults who received at least one dose of the vaccine. In addition, these vaccines help prevent oropharyngeal cancers associated with HPV.
Most people who have oral HPV infections don’t have symptoms. However, some people may develop oral HPV lesions such as warts on their lips, tongue, inside the mouth, or throat.
HPV can be spread through mouth-to-mouth contact. HPV is present in an infected person’s saliva and mucus; another person can get it by contacting the secretions if they have an open sore or cut in their mouth.
Warts resemble a cauliflower-like growth and can be pinkish. There can be multiple warts present in a region.
Typically, warts resolve on their own without medical treatment. However, other treatment options include topical creams, cryotherapy, injecting interferon-alpha inside, or surgical removal.
Warts can persist for months or a few years. You must consult a doctor for further evaluation if you have had HPV bumps on your tongue for over six months.
Women who have HPV during pregnancy are usually concerned that the HPV virus can harm their unborn child, but in most cases, it does not affect the fetus.