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Human papillomavirus (HPV) can remain dormant in the body for a variable length of time, ranging from months to years, or even decades.

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Here's a breakdown of what we know:

  • Most cases: In most people, the body's immune system naturally clears the HPV infection within one to two years after initial exposure.
  • Dormant state: When dormant, the virus is present in the body but not actively multiplying or causing any symptoms. It cannot be detected by routine tests like Pap smears during this period.
  • Reactivation: HPV can reactivate later in life, especially if the immune system is weakened due to factors like stress, illness, or certain medications.

Unfortunately, there's no way to predict how long HPV will stay dormant or if it will become active again. However, certain factors can increase the risk of HPV reactivation:

  • Smoking: Smoking weakens the immune system and is a significant risk factor for HPV-related cancers.
  • Other infections: Having other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can also weaken the immune system and increase the risk of HPV reactivation.
  • Weakened immune system: Individuals with compromised immune systems due to conditions like HIV/AIDS or undergoing specific medical treatments are more susceptible to HPV reactivation.

It's crucial to remember that not all HPV strains are the same:

  • Low-risk HPV: These strains are typically responsible for causing benign genital warts and usually clear up on their own.
  • High-risk HPV: These strains are linked to an increased risk of developing certain cancers, including cervical cancer, head and neck cancers, and some genital cancers.
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