Human Papillomavirus (HPV)/Genital Warts

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a viral sexually transmitted infection that can be prevented with a HPV vaccine, abstinence, and condom or other barrier use. HPV can be treated, but not cured. There are over 100 types of HPV and more than 40 of those affect the genital area. Treatments vary depending on the type of HPV. Low-risk HPV can cause genital warts, and high-risk HPV can cause cancer of the penis, vulva, cervix, anus, throat, etc. 

Also know as: HPV, Genital Warts

How You Get It:

  • Vaginal, anal or oral sex and genital touching with someone who has HPV
  • HPV can be spread when symptoms or warts are not present
  • Possible to pass to babies through the birth canal
  • Can be spread by skin-to-skin contact if a condom or other barrier method does not cover warts or infection
  • There are over 100 types of HPV and more than 40 of those affect the genital area.
  • Most sexually active people will come into contact with HPV at some point in their lives.

Symptoms:

  • Many people have no symptoms
  • Shows up any time from weeks to years after infection

Low-risk HPV:

  • Genital warts, which are small bumpy warts on the penis, vagina, urethra and anus
  • Itching
  • Burning or pain during urination
  • Bleeding
  • May go away on their own or get worse and may not come back. 

​​High-risk HPV:

  • Cause cancer of the penis, vulva, cervix, anus, throat, etc.
  • Most will go away on its own, but the person may still spread it
  • Those who have repeated exposure are at a higher risk of infection

Prevention: HPV can be prevented with condom use in most cases. It can also be prevented by getting a vaccine. The HPV vaccines that are available work to prevent the most common types of high-risk and/or low-risk HPV. The vaccine is given in three doses and is licensed and safe for adolescents 9-to 26-years old, but is most effective if all doses are given before someone becomes sexually active. 

Testing: Low-risk HPV with warts are detected with a visual pelvic exam. High-risk or cancer causing HPV can be tested through a regular PAP smear. The PAP smear tests for abnormal cervical cells, which can become normal over time, but sometimes turn into cancer. An additional test can be added to the PAP specifically for HPV, which will determine if someone has it, and what kind. There is no routinely recommended sreening test for anal, penile or throat cancer at this time. 

Treatment:

  • Low-risk HPV that includes warts, can be burned off or let them go away on their own
  • High-risk or cancer causing HPV treatments vary

If left untreated:

  • Will continue to spread it to sex partners
  • Most warts will clear up on their own, but can still be passed to sex partners
  • It can get worse and spread throughout the infected area
  • If high-risk HPV is not found and treated, it can cause cancer

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