(HPV). HPV is a family of more than 80 common viruses. Many types of HPV cause harmless
. These warts are often found on the fingers or feet. Only a few types are thought to cause genital warts.
HPV is easily spread during oral, genital, or anal sex with an infected partner. About two-thirds of people who have sex with a partner who has genital warts will also develop them. Warts can take several weeks or months to appear.
Risk factors for HPV and genital warts include:
Age 15-30 years old
Multiple sexual partners
Women whose first male sexual partner has had two or more previous sexual partners
Genital warts often look like fleshy, raised growths. They have a cauliflower shape. They often appear in clusters.
In women, warts may be found in the following areas:
Vulva or vagina
Inside or around the vagina or anus
In men, warts are less common. If present, they are usually found in these areas:
Tip or shaft of the penis
Around the anus
The following symptoms may also occur:
Secondary bacterial infection with redness, tenderness, or pus
Complications of HPV
Most strains of HPV that produce genital warts do not cause cancer. But certain strains may cause
. Less commonly, cancers of the vulva, anus, or penis occur. It is important for women to have yearly
. This test can detect any HPV related problems.
Pregnancy and Childbirth Complications
Genital warts may get larger during pregnancy. This may make it hard to urinate. Warts in or near the vaginal opening may also block the birth canal during delivery.
Genital warts may be diagnosed by:
A doctor can diagnose genital warts by looking at them. If external warts are found on a woman, then the cervix is usually also checked. A doctor may use a special solution to help find lesions that do not have classic features.
If you get abnormal Pap test results, this may indicate HPV. But, your doctor will order more accurate tests, like a
, to diagnose HPV.
Colposcopy and Biopsy
During a colposcopy, the doctor uses a special device to see if warts are in the cervix and vagina. For a
, the doctor takes a tissue sample and tests it.
, a swab of cells from the affected area can be checked for certain types of HPV.
Your treatment depends on the size and location of the warts. Treatment helps the symptoms, but does not cure the virus. The virus stays in your body. Warts or other problems may recur.
Your doctor may recommend one of these medications to be applied to the affected areas:
These methods are used on small warts and on large warts that have not responded to other treatment. A large wart can also be removed surgically. For warts that keep coming back, an antiviral drug, called alpha-interferon, can be injected into the wart.
The only way to completely prevent HPV from spreading is to avoid physical contact with an infected partner.
Latex condoms may help reduce the spread of HPV infection and genital warts. Condoms are not 100% effective. They do not cover the entire genital area.
Other ways to prevent infection include:
Abstaining from sex
Having a monogamous relationship
Getting regular check-ups for STDs
For women, getting regular Pap tests (starting at age 18 or at the start of sexually activity)
, Gardasil, prevents infection by some, but not all, of the HPV strains that cause cervical cancer. The vaccine is routinely recommended for girls 11-12 years old. It has been found safe for females 9-26 years old.
In trials, the vaccine was linked to a reduced number of precancerous lesions on the cervix.
Genital warts are rare in children. This diagnosis may indicate sexual abuse. Abuse needs to be reported.
Lowy DR, Schiller JT. Papillomaviruses and cervical cancer: pathogenesis and vaccine development.
J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr
McLemore MR. Gardasil: introducing the new human papillomavirus vaccine.
Clin J Oncol Nurs.
New vaccine prevents cervical cancer.
*¹5/18/2007 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
: The FUTURE II Study Group. Quadrivalent vaccine against human papillomavirus to prevent high-grade cervical lesions.
N Engl J Med.
*²5/11/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
: Winer RL, Feng Q, Hughes JP, O'Reilly S, Kiviat NB, Koutsky LA. Risk of female human papillomavirus acquisition associated with first male sex partner. J
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a