What is a papilloma?

Papilloma is a general medical term for a tumor of the skin or mucous membrane with finger-like projections. Some papillomas behave like neoplasms. While the vast majority of papillomas are benign (noncancerous), they can occasionally be dysplastic (precancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Papillomas can occur in areas throughout the body. Papillomas on the skin (cutaneous papillomas) are commonly referred to as warts. They occur on areas such as the hands, feet and knees. Papillomas can also occur in the nose, brain, genitals, conjunctiva of the eye, and female breast ducts. Papilloma in the throat, windpipe and lungs is a rare disease called recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP).

Most papillomas are caused by a virus. The human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are a group of more than 150 viruses that can cause papillomas. HPVs can cause papillomas of the skin, genitals, mouth, eyes and throat. Certain HPVs can cause cervical cancer in women.

Some types of papilloma have other, nonviral, causes. For example, nasal papilloma may be caused by a tissue injury. In addition, there are types of papillomas that do not have known causes. These include intraductal (breast duct) papilloma and choroid plexus papilloma (a rare benign brain tumor most often seen in young children).

Genital warts, a type of papilloma caused by HPV infection, are very contagious through sexual contact. They can also lead to a potentially serious disease, called recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, in an infant or child born to a mother with active genital warts during pregnancy. Seek early and regular prenatal care to reduce the risk of transmission of HPV infection during pregnancy or delivery.

Seek prompt medical care if you, your partner, or your child, have a new skin or genital growth, whether or not it is painful, so it can be properly diagnosed and treated to prevent complications.

In rare cases, recurrent respiratory papillomatosis can produce rapidly growing tumors in the respiratory tract. This can lead to complete respiratory obstruction or blockage. Another type of papilloma, choroid plexus papilloma, can lead to increased intracranial pressure and hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain). Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, your child, or someone you are with, have serious symptoms of these conditions including difficulty breathing; bulging soft spot on top of an infant’s head (fontanel); change in level of consciousness, such as passing out; sudden change in vision; sudden paralysis; seizure; or sudden feeling of severe pressure in the head.


What are the symptoms of a papilloma?

Papillomas can occur on the skin and inside the mouth, throat (recurrent respiratory papillomatosis) and nose. They can also occur in and around the genitals and anus (genital warts) and in the female breast ducts. Symptoms of papillomas vary depending on where they occur in the body.

Symptoms ... Read more about papillomasymptoms


What causes a papilloma?

Most papillomas are caused by a human papillomavirus (HPV). There are over 150 different strains of HPVs. Skin warts and genital warts are also caused by HPVs. HPVs that cause skin warts are not easily spread from person to person. However, HPVs that cause genital warts are passed very easily through sexual contact. HPVs can also cause recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP) in which papillo... Read more about papillomacauses


How is a papilloma treated?

Some types of papilloma do not require treatment and may disappear on their own. When treatment is needed, it varies depending on the specific type, size and location of the papilloma. For example:

  • Skin warts and genital warts may be treated with topical medications or procedures, such as cryotherapy (freezing with a chemical) or laser surgery. Skin warts may also b... Read more about papillomatreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 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.

This Article is Filed Under: Skin, Hair and Nails

Top Features in Skin, Hair and Nails

15 Ways To Get Better Medicine

People who are actively involved in their medical care stay healthier, recover quicker when they're ill, and live longer, healthier lives.