Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Genital Warts

Some types of HPV cause genital warts; others can cause cervical cancer.
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What Is Human Papillomavirus?

Human papillomavirus is a group of over 100 viruses, many of which cause no symptoms. Of the more than 100 types of HPV, about 30 can be passed from one person to another through sexual contact. Some types of HPV cause genital warts, and others cause cervical cancer. The types that cause genital warts are not the same types that cause cervical cancer. While HPV is extremely common, the types that cause cervical cancer are rare.

How Is HPV Spread?

HPV is spread through direct skin-to-skin contact during genital or anal sex. Very rarely, HPV can be passed from mother to baby during delivery.

What Are the Symptoms?

Most people infected with HPV have no symptoms. People with the types of HPV that cause genital warts may get warts on their genitals or groin, or in or around the anus. The warts can be flat or raised but tend to be flesh-colored or whitish and may itch. Some people have just one episode of genital warts, while others have recurrences.

How Is It Diagnosed?

Visit your health-care provider or a family-planning clinic.

How Is It Treated?

While there is no cure for HPV, several treatments are available to treat genital warts.

How Can I Protect Myself?

Condoms offer some protection, but a condom may not cover a genital wart, and the virus may "shed" beyond the area protected by a condom. If you or your partner have genital warts, it is best to abstain from sex when the warts are present and to use latex condoms between outbreaks.

Information Resources

From the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association Copyright 2003. All rights reserved.



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