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HPV (Human Papillomavirus)

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 4, 2022.

What is human papillomavirus (HPV)?

HPV is the most common infection spread by sexual contact. It can also be spread from a mother to her baby during delivery. HPV may cause oral and genital warts or tumors in your nose, mouth, throat, and lungs. HPV may also cause vaginal, penile, and anal cancers. You may not show symptoms of any of these conditions for several years after being exposed to HPV.

What are the symptoms of HPV?

  • Painless warts
  • Genital or anal discharge, bleeding, itching, or pain
  • Pain when you urinate

How is HPV diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider may use a vinegar liquid to help diagnose HPV genital warts. Women 30 to 65 years old can be checked for HPV during regular cervical cancer screenings. An HPV test checks for certain types of HPV that can cause changes in cervical cells. Without treatment, the changed cells can become cancer. An HPV test can be done every 5 years if the results show no infection. The test can be done with or without a Pap smear. A Pap smear checks for cancer or for abnormal cells that can become cancer. You may be tested for HPV if you are diagnosed with a mouth or throat cancer.

How is HPV treated?

HPV cannot be cured. Conditions that are caused by HPV can be treated. You will need to be monitored closely for these conditions. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about monitoring, conditions caused by HPV, and available treatments.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

How can HPV infection be prevented?

  • Ask about the HPV vaccine. The vaccine can help protect against HPV infection. Females and males can receive the vaccine. It is most effective if given before sexual activity begins. This allows the body to build almost complete protection against HPV before contact with the virus. The vaccine is usually given at 11 or 12 years of age but may be given as early as 9 years. The vaccine can be given through age 45.
  • Always use a condom during intercourse. A condom will not completely protect you from HPV infection, but it will help lower your risk. Use a new condom or latex barrier each time you have sex. This includes oral, vaginal, and anal sex. Make sure the condom fits and is put on correctly. Rubber latex sheets or dental dams can be used for oral sex. If you are allergic to latex, use a nonlatex product such as polyurethane.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have warts in your genital or anal area.
  • You have genital or anal discharge, bleeding, itching, or pain.
  • You have pain when you urinate.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.