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The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI). HPV can cause symptoms, such as warts on or around the genitals, and can also put a person at higher risk of developing certain cancers. There is no cure for HPV, so treatment focuses on treating the symptoms of this condition.

This article discusses HPV, treatments, and when a person should see their doctor.

HPV is the most common STI in the United States and worldwide. HPV spreads through anal, vaginal, and oral sex and other skin-to-skin contact.

HPV is a collection of over 200 related viruses. Researchers and doctors classify these viruses into two groups:

  • Low-risk HPV: This form of HPV often does not cause symptoms and will go away independently. When symptoms occur, the virus typically shows up as warts on or near the genitals.
  • High-risk HPV: This form of HPV can cause cancer. The National Cancer Institute states that HPV16 and HPV18 are the most common causes of HPV-related cancer. Around half of all HPV cases have high-risk variants.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that HPV can cause the following types of cancer:

The best treatment for HPV is prevention. The CDC recommends all children 11–12 years or older get vaccinated to help lower their risk of infection and cancer. Children can receive the first dose of this vaccination from the age of 9.

Learn more about the HPV vaccine here.

If a person contracts HPV, doctors cannot cure or treat the virus, but they can help treat genital warts.

Some people with HPV may not have any symptoms. If a person believes they may be at risk of contracting HPV, they can take a test at home or a healthcare clinic.

HPV usually does not need treatment. Most HPV cases will go away by themselves within 2 years. However, there are treatment options available.

According to one study, the most effective treatment for genital warts is surgical removal. However, both cryotherapy and trichloroacetic acid are other options a healthcare professional may offer.

Cryotherapy is a procedure where a doctor freezes off genital warts. According to a 2019 study, cryotherapy has a high success rate in removing warts. The procedure can also reduce virus concentrations and remove the triggers that allow cancer to develop.

Some doctors may recommend using trichloroacetic acid. Research suggests using trichloroacetic acid for 15 days–4 months effectively treats oral lesions resulting from HPV. Researchers also found that people generally tolerated the treatment well.

However, trichloroacetic acid is highly corrosive. Individuals should not treat HPV at home with this substance. If a doctor recommends using trichloroacetic acid, they will apply it to an individual themselves.

For home treatment, a doctor may recommend Condylox and Imiquimod. Even with treatment, genital warts return in 30–40% of cases.

Learn more about how long HPV takes to go away here.

There are two prescription treatments a person can use at home to help treat HPV-related warts.

Please note, the writer has not tested these products. All information is research-based.

Imiquimod

Imiquimod is a prescription cream that can treat genital warts. A person typically applies it once a day, three times a week for up to 16 weeks.

Individuals should never use this cream internally and always wash off the medication according to the instructions on the prescription.

A person should avoid sexual intercourse while using Imiquimod because it can weaken the strength of condoms, dental dams, and other barrier contraceptive methods.

Some online pharmacies, such as Blink Health, offer imiquimod for purchase. Individuals will need an existing prescription to buy this medication.

Condylox (podofilox)

Condylox (podofilox) is a prescription solution that doctors may prescribe for the treatment of genital warts. Individuals should follow their doctor’s instructions on how to apply this treatment.

However, usually, people will apply Condylox once in the morning and once in the evening, 12 hours apart, for 3 days. If the warts do not go away 4 days after the last treatment, people can repeat this process up to three more times. Individuals should always leave 4 days between the last day of treatment and the next cycle.

People should avoid sexual intercourse while using this treatment.

Some online pharmacies, such as Blink Health, offer Condylox for purchase. Individuals will need an existing prescription to buy this medication.

A person should talk with their doctor if they know or suspect they may have HPV. A doctor can advise individuals on whether they need any STI testing and determine whether treatment is necessary.

Doctors may prescribe medications such as imiquimod or Condylox. Individuals can purchase these from their pharmacies or use an online pharmacy service to deliver the medication to their doors.

In some cases, a doctor may recommend surgery, cryotherapy, or the use of trichloroacetic acid to treat genital warts. These treatments are only available from a person’s healthcare team.

As some forms of HPV do not show symptoms, and some types can increase cancer risk, it is essential to have regular cancer screening. A doctor can advise individuals on how regularly a person needs this procedure.

HPV is the most common STI in the world. HPV can be high- or low-risk. Some forms of HPV may cause genital warts.

A doctor cannot directly treat HPV, but they can treat a person’s symptoms. A doctor may recommend surgery, cryotherapy, or prescribe creams or solutions to get rid of genital warts at home.

The CDC recommends that all children 11–12 years or older receive their HPV vaccine to prevent this infection.