Human Papillomavirus (HPV): Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatments


Human papillomavirus (HPV), a DNA virus from the papillomavirus family, is a collection of viruses that cause warts on the hands, feet, and genitals. HPV is a group of over 100 related viruses and about 40 of the viruses are sexually transmitted viruses which can spread through the contact with skin, mucous membranes and fluids in the genital area. It most often spread through intercourse or oral sex. This virus can affect both men and women, and it only affect human. People with multiple sexual partners or have sex at an early age have a higher risk.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection globally. Most people are infected at some point in their lives. According to the data, there are about 14million new cases 266,000 deaths caused by cervical cancer worldwide. About 85% of these occurred in the developing countries. Every year, there are about 31,500 cases of cancer are caused by HPV in America.

How is HPV spread?

HPV can be spread through any sexual contact, but it is most often spread through anal or vaginal sexual intercourse though the infected person has no symptoms. You may occur symptoms after many years of having sex with someone who is infected. Thus, it is hard to know when you first became infected. In some cases, HPV can be transmitted during birth to an infant and causing genital or respiratory system infections.

HPV Infection

HPV can cause HPV infection which often are no symptoms and can resolve spontaneously. In some people, an HPV infection persists and causes warts or precancerous lesions. The precancerous lesions can increase the risk of cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus, mouth, or throat. Nearly all cervical cancer is due to HPV with two types, HPV16 and HPV18. HPV6 and HPV11 are common causes of genital warts and laryngeal papillomatosis.

Risk factors

Some factors can increase the risk for getting or persisting HPV infections, including:

  • Early age of first sexual intercourse
  • Multiple partners
  • Smoking
  • Poor immune function
  • A pregnant mother with HPV
  • Having personal contact with warts or surfaces where HPV exposure has occurred

HPV cannot spread by common items such as toilet seats.


Not all of the 40 sexually transmitted HPV viruses can cause serious health problems.

  • High-risk HPV strains include HPV 16, 18, 30, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 52, 58, and a few others. About 70% of cervical cancer are caused by the persisting HPV-16 and 18 infections.
  • Low-risk HPV strains include HPV 6, 11, 13, 32, and a few other. These may cause genital warts and rarely develop into cancer.


According to different types of HPV strains, patients have different symptoms, including:

  • Warts: including genital warts, common warts, plantar warts, flat warts
  • Certain cancer: including cervical cancer, vulva cancer, vagina cancer, penis cancer, anus cancer, etc.


For women, screening tests can be used to diagnose HPV infection, including:

A biopsy of abnormal area may be necessary sometimes.

For men, there is no test available currently. Their diagnosis mainly depends on visual inspection. In some cases, if men or women have a history of receptive anal sex, doctors may consider the possibility of undergoing an anal Pap test.


Currently, the treatment for virus is unknown. However, there are some treatment options for the symptoms or related diseases.

For warts

(OTC) salicylic and some prescription medications include:


  • Cryotherapy
  • Electrocautery
  • Laser therapy
  • Interferon injection
  • Surgical removal

For cancers

Specific treatments depend on the types of cancer. If cancer develops, patients can have screening tests to have an early diagnosis and have corresponding treatments with doctors.


HPV vaccines can prevent the most common types of HPV infections effectively, and they are available for both males and females. To be most effective, they should be used before an infection occurs. Doctors are usually advised using between 9 to 13 years old.

Other ways to reduce the risk for HPV infections may include:

  • Having few or no sexual partners
  • Using condoms
  • Not having sex while there are visible genital warts

For women, regular screening tests are necessary to prevent any precancerous change, including:

Please consult your doctors for details.

Keywords: human papillomavirus; HPV; HPV infections.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.