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The human papillomavirus (HPV) is responsible for a common sexually transmitted infection that shares the same name. Most sexually active people are exposed to it at some point.
In the United States, around
There are different types of HPV, and some can increase the risk of cancer. Each year, around 19,400 females and 12,100 males in the U.S. develop cancers that stem from HPV.
In this article, learn what HPV is, how it spreads, the symptoms it causes, and their treatments. We also explore HPV vaccines and other ways to protect against the infection.
However, a person can take various steps to remove the warts that HPV can cause. It is also worth noting that these warts often go away without treatment.
Over-the-counter salicylic acid products can treat common warts. Do not use these products on warts in the genital area, however.
For some people, a doctor may prescribe one of the following medications:
- imiquimod (Aldara, Zyclara)
- podofilox (Condylox)
- trichloroacetic acid
Also, surgical intervention may be necessary.
- Cryotherapy: This involves using liquid nitrogen to freeze off warts.
- Electrocautery: This involves using an electrical current to burn away the warts.
- Laser or light therapy: This involves using a high-powered, targeted beam to remove the unwanted tissue.
- Surgical removal: A surgeon can cut away warts in an outpatient procedure that involves a local anesthetic.
The best option will depend upon the type and location of the wart. Treatments can remove warts, but the virus will remain in the body and remain transmissible.
Symptoms of HPV may appear years after the initial infection. Some types of the virus cause warts to form, while others can increase the risk of cancer. Specifically, HPV can cause:
- large or small
- flat or cauliflower-shaped
- white, pink, red, purplish-brown, or skin-colored
They can form on the:
- penis or scrotum
- groin area
These warts can cause itching, burning, and other discomfort.
Other types of warts
Common warts are rough, raised bumps that tend to form on the hands, fingers, and elbows.
Plantar warts are hard, grainy growths that often form on the feet, usually on the heels or balls of the feet.
Flat warts, meanwhile, are flat-topped, slightly raised lesions that are darker than the surrounding skin and often appear on the face or neck.
Most people with HPV do not develop cancer, but the infection can increase the risk, especially in people with weakened immune systems.
A high-risk strain of HPV can change the way that cells communicate with each other, and this can cause them to grow in an uncontrolled way.
In many people, the immune system defeats the unwanted cells. However, if the immune system is unable to do this, the cells can stay in the body and continue to grow. In time, this can lead to cancer.
It may take 10–20 years for a tumor to develop, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
In the U.S., around 3% of all cancers in females and 2% of all cancers in males stem from HPV.
The infection can increase the risk of developing cancer of the:
Routine screening can lead to an early diagnosis, and receiving prompt treatment can prevent the cancer from spreading.
The best course of treatment will depend on the type of cancer, its stage, and the age and overall health of the person.
HPV is a virus that transmits through skin-to-skin contact, often sexual contact. The infection can develop in anyone who is sexually active.
There may be no symptoms, or the symptoms may appear and disappear. HPV
The strains of HPV that cause warts are different from those that increase the risk of cancer.
HPV can transmit to an infant during birth. However,
If a young child develops HPV symptoms, it may indicate child sexual abuse.
- having several sexual partners
- having sex with someone who has had several sexual partners
- having sex without using barrier protection, such as a condom or dental dam
- having areas of
broken or damagedskin
- having contact with warts or surfaces where HPV exposure has occurred
- not having the HPV vaccination
If warts or lesions are visible, a doctor can usually diagnose HPV with a visual examination. Also, tests can confirm the presence of the virus.
When to get tested for HPV?
A Pap smear, also called a cervical smear, involves collecting and testing cells from the surface of the cervix or vagina. It can reveal any cellular abnormalities that may lead to cancer.
A DNA test can evaluate for high-risk types of HPV, and a doctor may use it alongside a Pap smear.
A biopsy, which involves taking a sample of affected skin, may be necessary if a test reveals unusual cell changes.
There is currently no routine screening for HPV in males, and the range of testing options is limited. Some experts have called for more testing, especially for men who have sex with men.
If a person has receptive anal sex, a doctor may recommend an anal Pap smear.
A person can also test for HPV at home, but it is important to see a doctor to confirm the diagnosis. The home test cannot detect cancer.
- Get the HPV vaccine.
- Use barrier protection every time they have sex.
- Limit their number of sexual partners.
- Not have sex while genital warts are present.
To help prevent the warts from spreading:
- Avoid touching the wart unnecessarily.
- Wash the hands after touching a wart.
- Avoid shaving over a wart.
- Use footwear in public areas, such as pools and locker rooms, if warts are present on the feet.
- Treat and cover a wart until it disappears.
- Avoid sharing towels and other personal items.
This type of vaccine comes in two stages, 6–12 months apart. Currently, three HPV vaccines are available:
- Gardasil 9
Speak with a doctor to see whether vaccination is appropriate. Anyone who is pregnant should wait until after delivery to have the vaccination.