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- Take the Quiz on STDs
- Patient Comments: Genital Warts (HPV) - Effective Treatments
- Patient Comments: Genital Warts - Symptoms
- Find a local Obstetrician-Gynecologist in your town
- Genital warts (HPV) facts*
- What are human papillomaviruses (HPVs)?
- How common is HPV infection?
- What are the symptoms of genital warts?
- How is HPV infection diagnosed?
- Is there a DNA test for types of HPV infection?
- How are genital warts diagnosed?
- Is there a cure or treatment for external genital warts?
- Precancerous changes (dysplasia) of the cervix
- Can HPV infection be prevented?
- What should a person do if exposed to someone with genital warts?
Quick GuideSexually Transmitted Diseases: HPV, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Herpes, HIV
What are the symptoms of genital warts?
Genital warts appear as raised, flesh-colored lumps or bumps. They may also have a corrugated (cauliflower-like) appearance. They may appear anywhere on body surfaces that are exposed in sexual contact, including the vulva, vagina, cervix, or groin in women and the penis, scrotum, thigh, or groin in males. Size of the warts may vary, and multiple warts may be present at the same time.
In many cases genital warts do not cause any symptoms, but they are sometimes associated with itching, burning, or tenderness. They may result in localized irritation, depending upon their anatomic location. Women who have genital warts inside the vagina may experience symptoms such as bleeding following sexual intercourse or an abnormal vaginal discharge. Rarely, bleeding or urinary obstruction may occur if the wart involves the urethral opening.
How is HPV infection diagnosed?
HPV sometimes can be suspected by changes that appear on a Pap smear, since pap smears identify infected abnormal cells that may be precursors to cancer. While HPV infection can lead to precancerous changes in the cervix that are recognized on the Pap smear, the Pap smear itself cannot definitely establish the diagnosis of HPV infection, unless special testing is carried out on the material obtained from the Pap. When there is an abnormal Pap smear, the doctor often will do advanced testing on the material to determine if, and which kind, of HPV may be present. HPV also can be detected if a biopsy (for example, from a genital wart or from the uterine cervix) is sent to the laboratory for analysis.
Is there a DNA test for types of HPV infection?
In 2009, the U.S. FDA approved the first DNA tests for diagnosis of the common cancer-causing HPV types in cervical samples. Two tests known as Cervista HPV 16/18 and Cervista HPV HR, are used to diagnose the presence of DNA from the two most common HPV types associated with cancer. These are HPV types 16 and 18, as well as other "high risk" or cancer-associated HPV types. These tests do not replace standard Pap testing or clinical examination, and they are used in combination with traditional screening methods to help estimate a woman's risk and aid in management decisions.