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This topic provides information about the
human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes
genital warts and can also cause cervical cancer. If
you are looking for information about cervical cell changes or
cervical cancer, see the topics
Abnormal Pap Test or
What is human papillomavirus (HPV)?
papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common
sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It is a virus
that can be spread through skin-to-skin contact. There are many different types
of HPV. Some types cause genital warts and are called low-risk, and some types
can lead to cervical cancer and are called high-risk. There is no known cure
for HPV, but there is a vaccine that can protect against some types of the
What are genital warts?
Genital warts are skin
growths in the groin, genital, or anal areas. They can be different sizes and
shapes. Some look like flat white patches, and others are bumpy, like tiny
bunches of cauliflower. Sometimes you can't see the warts at all.
What causes HPV and genital warts?
HPV is a virus.
Certain types of the virus cause genital warts and some types cause abnormal
cervical cell changes and cervical cancer.
HPV and genital warts
can be spread through sexual contact with someone who has the virus.
What are the symptoms?
Most people infected with
HPV don't have symptoms. But if they do, the symptoms may be so mild that they
may not know they are infected. The symptoms may include pain, itching, and
bleeding, or you may develop visible genital warts.
If you have
symptoms, they will probably occur 2 to 3 months after infection. But you can
have symptoms from 3 weeks to many years after infection.
genital warts appear only during active infection. But it is possible to spread
the virus even if you can't see the warts.
How are HPV and genital warts diagnosed?
can often tell if you have genital warts by looking closely at your genital and
anal areas. He or she may ask you questions about your symptoms and your risk
factors. Risk factors are things that make you more likely to get a disease.
Sometimes the doctor takes a sample of tissue from the wart for
For women, if you have an abnormal Pap test, your doctor
can do an HPV test that looks for high-risk types of the virus.
How are they treated?
There is no cure for HPV,
but the symptoms can be treated.
Talk to your doctor about whether
you should treat visible genital warts. They usually go away with no treatment,
but they may also spread. Most people decide to treat them because of the
symptoms or because of how the warts look. But if you don't have symptoms and
are not worried about how the warts look, you can wait and see if the warts go