Genital Warts (Human Papillomavirus) - Exams and Tests
A doctor usually can diagnose
genital warts using your medical history and a
physical exam. But not all HPV infections cause visible warts. If you
don't have any visible genital warts or other symptoms, it may be hard for your
doctor to diagnose HPV infection. Your doctor may ask you the following
- Do you think you were exposed to HPV or any
sexually transmitted infections (STIs)? How do you know?
Did your partner tell you?
- What are your symptoms? If you have
discharge from the vagina or penis, it is important to note any smell or
- Did you use condoms
to protect against STIs?
- Which sexual behaviors do you or your
partner engage in, including
high-risk behaviors such as sex with multiple
- Have you had an STI in the past? How was it
- Have you ever had an abnormal
Pap test (for women)?
After your doctor takes your medical
history, you will have a
gynecological exam, which usually includes a Pap
A Pap test screens for abnormal cells on the
cervix. Results of the Pap test may indicate an HPV
infection even though you have no visible warts.
Women over age 30 may
get a screening test for HPV at the same time as a Pap test. This
HPV test looks for the
DNA (genetic information) of the virus. Women under 30
usually get the HPV test only if they have an
abnormal Pap test.3
If your doctor finds areas of abnormal tissue on the cervix (which may be
related to HPV infection), he or she may recommend treatment.
After the medical history, you will have a
physical exam for genital warts.
Doctors do not recommend a screening test for HPV infection in men.
For men and women
Some experts believe that people who receive anal
sex should have a screening for anal cancer, especially if they also have
HIV infection. Ask your doctor whether and how often
you should be tested.
If visible warts are present, a
diagnosis can usually be made without more testing.
doctor finds abnormal tissue but cannot make a definite diagnosis, you may have
a biopsy for lab tissue studies.
for the type of HPV that is causing warts is not useful for diagnosis. This
test is not routinely done for diagnosis or treatment of genital warts.