HPV Infection (Human Papillomavirus)

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Early Signs and Symptoms of Genital Warts in Women

In many cases genital warts, which are caused by an infection with HPV, often do not cause any symptoms or signs, but they are sometimes associated with:

  • Itching, burning, or tenderness around the area of infection
  • Raised, flesh-colored lumps or bumps that may have a cauliflower-like appearance.
  • Genital warts may appear anywhere on body's skin that is exposed during sexual contact.
  • Size of the warts may vary, and multiple warts may be occur at the same time.
  • Genital warts inside the vagina may cause bleeding following sexual intercourse or an abnormal vaginal discharge.

Facts and definition of HPV (human papillomavirus)

  • Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) infect human skin and mucous membranes.
  • Certain HPV types, known as high-risk HPV types, are known to cause cervical cancer and other cancers including cancers of the penis, anus, vagina, vulva, and oral cavity.
  • Other HPV types cause genital warts or warts elsewhere on the body.
  • HPV is highly contagious and is spread through close contact, including sexual contact.
  • It is estimated that most sexually active people will become infected with HPV at some point.
  • HPV infection typically does not cause signs or symptoms.
  • In most cases, HPV infection goes away on its own, without long-term problems.
  • Vaccines are available (for example, Gardasil and Gardasil 9) to prevent infection with the most common cancer-causing HPV types and the types that are most likely to cause genital warts.
  • There is no specific treatment that can cure HPV infection, although treatments are available for warts and cancers caused by HPV.

What is HPV (human papillomavirus)?

The human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are a group of over 100 virus types that infect human skin and mucus membranes. Most people with HPV never know they are infected and never develop any problems, signs, or symptoms related to the infection, which usually goes away on its own. In fact, HPV infection is so common, it is estimated that most sexually active men and women get the infection at some point in their lives. However, certain types of HPVs may cause health problems in some people. For example, some HPV types cause genital warts and cervical cancers, while others cause typical skin warts. Not every infection with HPV results in health problems, or even produces signs and symptoms. Cancers caused by HPV typically take many years, even decades, to develop.

Is HPV (human papillomavirus) infection an STD?

Because HPV infection is spread through sexual intercourse, it is classified as a sexually-transmitted disease (STD) or sexually-transmitted infection (STI). HPV is the most common STD and is thought to affect most people at some point in life.

Who gets infected with HPV (human papillomavirus)?

HPV infection is extremely common. It is estimated that all sexually active men and women acquire an HPV infection at some point in life. For most

Is HPV (human papillomavirus) contagious?

Yes, HPV is highly contagious. This means that common warts on the skin or soles of the feet are contagious, because contact with warts may spread the HPV infection. Genital warts are also contagious. HPV can be spread from person-to-person even when the infected person does not have any signs of symptoms.

How is HPV (human papillomavirus) infection transmitted or spread?

  • As mentioned previously, genital HPV infection is spread by sexual contact with an infected person, including vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
  • It can be spread when the infected person has no signs or symptoms.
  • It also take many years for health problems associated with HPV to appear, making it very difficult for some people to know exactly when they became infected.
  • In addition to sexual contact, HPV infection can be spread by any skin-to-skin contact.
  • Spread of HPV infection also is likely to be possible from touching surfaces (such as public shower floors) that have been in contact with an HPV-infected person.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/2/2016

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