HPV infection causes warts. More than 100 varieties of human papillomavirus (HPV) exist. Different types of HPV infection can cause warts on different parts of your body. For example, some types of HPV infection cause plantar warts on the feet, while other varieties of HPV infection are responsible for the warts that most commonly occur on the hands or face.
There are more than 40 different strains of HPV that specifically affect the genital area. Most HPV infections don't lead to cancer, but some types of genital HPV can cause cancer of the cervix — the passage between the vagina and the uterus. Vaccines can help protect against the strains of genital HPV most likely to cause genital warts or cervical cancer.
In most cases, your body's immune system defeats an HPV infection before it has a chance to create any warts. When warts do appear, they may vary in appearance depending on which variety of HPV is involved:
When to see a doctor
Common warts can grow on your hands or fingers. They're small, grainy bumps that are rough to the touch. They're usually flesh-colored, white, pink or tan. ...
Plantar warts are caused by the same type of virus that causes warts on your hands and fingers. But, because of their location, they can be painful. ...
Flat warts are smaller and smoother than other warts. They generally occur on the face or legs and are more common in children and teens than in adults. ...
Female genital warts
Genital warts are a common sexually transmitted infection. They can appear on the genitals, in the pubic area or in the anal canal. In women, genital warts can also grow inside the vagina. ...
Male genital warts
Genital warts are a common sexually transmitted infection. They can appear on the genitals, in the pubic area or in the anal canal. ...
HPV infection occurs when the virus enters your body through a cut, abrasion or small tear in the outer layer of your skin. The virus is transferred primarily by skin-to-skin contact.
Genital HPV infections are contracted through sexual intercourse, anal sex and other skin-to-skin contact in the genital region. Some HPV infections that result in oral or upper respiratory lesions are contracted through oral sex.
Rarely, a mother with an HPV infection may transmit the virus to her infant during delivery. This exposure may cause HPV infection in the baby's genitals or upper respiratory system.
HPV infections are common. Risk factors for HPV infection include:
Preparing for your appointment
If you think you have an HPV infection, you'll probably first see your family doctor. Depending on where your warts are located, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in disorders of the skin (dermatologist), feet (podiatrist) or reproductive organs (gynecologist or urologist).
What you can do
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Your doctor may be able to diagnose HPV infection after visual inspection of any warts or lesions.
If genital warts aren't visible, you may need one or more of the following tests:
Treatments and drugs
Warts often go away without treatment. But even if your warts have disappeared or have been removed, you can still harbor HPV and may transmit the virus to others.
Surgical and other procedures
The national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends routine HPV vaccination for girls and boys ages 11 and 12. If not fully vaccinated at ages 11 and 12, they recommend that girls and women through age 26 and boys and men through age 21 receive the vaccine. However, men may receive the HPV vaccine through age 26 if desired. These vaccines are most effective if given before becoming sexually active.
Last Updated: 2013-03-12
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