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HPV/Genital Warts Health Center

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Genital Warts (Human Papillomavirus) - Topic Overview

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 away.

If you do decide to treat genital warts, talk to your doctor about the best treatment for you. There are prescription medicines that you or your doctor can put on the warts. Or your doctor can remove them with lasers, surgery, or by freezing them off.

Even if you treat visible warts or your warts go away without treatment, the HPV infection can stay in your body's cells. It is possible to spread genital warts to your partner even if you have no signs of them.

The best way to keep from getting genital warts—or any other STI—is to not have sex or any skin-to-skin genital contact. If you do have sex, practice safer sex.

  • Use condoms. Condoms may help reduce the risk of spreading genital warts, but they do not protect the entire genital area against skin-to-skin contact.
  • Before you have sex with someone, talk to them about STIs. Find out whether he or she is at risk for them. Remember that a person can be infected without knowing it.
  • If you have symptoms of an STI, don't have sex.
  • Do not have sex with anyone who has symptoms or who may have been exposed to an STI.
  • Having several sex partners increases your risk for infection.

If you are age 26 or younger, you can get the HPV shot. The vaccines Cervarix(What is a PDF document?) and Gardasil(What is a PDF document?) protect against two types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. Gardasil also protects against two types of HPV that cause genital warts.

Learning about genital warts:

Being diagnosed:

Getting treatment:

Ongoing concerns:

Living with genital warts:

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 21, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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