Overview Of Human Papillomavirus (HPV/Genital Warts)
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of related viruses. They can cause warts on different parts of your body. There are more than 200 types. About 40 of them are spread through direct sexual contact with someone who has the virus. They can also spread through other intimate, skin-to-skin contact. Some of these types can cause cancer.
There are two categories of sexually transmitted HPV. Low-risk HPV can cause warts on or around your genitals, anus, mouth, or throat.
High-risk HPV can cause various cancers:
- Cervical cancer
- Anal cancer
- Some types of oral and throat cancer
- Vulvar cancer
- Vaginal cancer
- Penile cancer
Most HPV infections go away on their own and don’t cause cancer. But sometimes the infections last longer. When a high-risk HPV infection lasts for many years, it can lead to cell changes. If these changes are not treated, they may get worse over time and become cancer.
Symptoms Of Human Papillomavirus (HPV/Genital Warts)
Some people develop warts from certain low-risk HPV infections, but the other types (including the high-risk types) have no symptoms.
If a high-risk HPV infection lasts for many years and causes cell changes, you may have symptoms. You may also have symptoms if those cell changes develop into cancer. Which symptoms you would have depends on which part of the body is affected.
Exams & Tests
Health care providers can usually diagnose warts by looking at them.
For women, there are cervical cancer screening tests that can find changes in the cervix that might lead to cancer. As part of the screening, women may have Pap tests, HPV tests, or both.
Treatment Of Human Papillomavirus (HPV/Genital Warts)
An HPV infection itself cannot be treated. There are medicines that you can apply to a wart. If they don’t work, your health care provider could freeze, burn, or surgically remove it.
There are treatments for the cell changes caused by infection with high-risk HPV. They include medicines that you apply to the area that is affected and various surgical procedures.
People who have HPV-related cancers usually get the same types of treatment as people who have cancers that are not caused by HPV. An exception to this is for people who have certain oral and throat cancers. They may have different treatment options.