What is human papillomavirus?

The human papillomaviruses (also known as HPV) are a group of more than 150 viruses, 40 of which are known to infect the genital areas. Other types infect the skin and the lining of the throat. It is possible to be infected with HPV without knowing you have it, and the majority of infections do not produce any symptoms. HPV affects both men and women and can cause warts, or papillomas, on the genitals and around the anus, as well as at other sites. The virus is passed through direct contact, including sexual contact. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (Source: CDC).

Certain strains of HPV can cause precancerous changes in cells in the area where the infection occurs. The infection can lead to different types of cancers, including cervical cancer in women. Cancer-causing HPVs are referred to as high-risk, carcinogenic, or oncogenic HPVs. HPV infection is also linked to cancers of the anus, penis, vagina and vulva.

Approximately 50% of sexually active men and women will have HPV at some point in their lives. Approximately 20 million Americans have HPV, with six million new cases occurring each year (Source: CDC).

Symptoms of HPV include warts on the genital areas that may appear small or large, flat or raised, or cauliflower shaped. Warts can also appear in the throat, in a condition called recurrent respiratory papillomatosis. Skin (cutaneous) warts are also caused by certain types of HPV.

HPV does not always cause symptoms, but it is highly contagious. People do not always realize they have it and may transmit the virus unknowingly. Seek prompt medical care if you suspect that you or your partner may have contracted or may be at risk for HPV infection.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of human papillomavirus infection?

Symptoms of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection include the appearance of warts that may vary in size from small to large and may be raised, flat, or cauliflower shaped. Warts can appear on the skin (cutaneous warts), in the throat (recurrent respiratory papillomatosis), or in the genital areas. Left untreated, warts may persist, disappear, or increase in size and number. Many cases of HPV do not cause symptoms and resolve by themselves without treatment.... Read more about human papillomavirussymptoms

CAUSES

What causes human papillomavirus infection?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a contagious virus transmitted through direct contact, including sexual contact. People may have HPV for months or years without knowing they have it and without experiencing any problems, and they may unknowingly pass it along to others. It is possible to be infected with more than one type of HPV.... Read more about human papillomaviruscauses

TREATMENTS

How is human papillomavirus infection treated?

Currently, there is no cure for human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The majority of HPV cases resolve on their own, but flare-ups of skin or genital warts may occur. The warts can be removed by a physician using chemical or laser treatments, or they may disappear on their own.... Read more about human papillomavirustreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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