Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common virus. There are many types of HPV. Some types cause the common skin wart. Other types cause genital warts, which can be spread by sexual contact. Some types can increase the risk of certain cancers, such as cervical or anal cancer. Having one type of HPV doesn't lead to having another type.

Many people who have HPV don't know that they're infected. It's often found with a cervical cancer screening test, such as an HPV test.

If an HPV screening test finds that you have a type of HPV that might lead to cancer, your doctor may suggest more tests. This doesn't mean you'll get cancer. But it means that you may have an increased risk. Abnormal cell changes caused by HPV often go away on their own. If they don't, they can be treated.


What are the symptoms of human papillomavirus (HPV)?

Most people with HPV don't have symptoms. If you do, the symptoms may be so mild that you don't notice them. Symptoms may include pain, itching, and bleeding, or you may develop visible genital warts.


How is human papillomavirus (HPV) diagnosed?

The doctor will ask about your past health and risk factors for infection and do a physical exam. But not all HPV infections cause visible genital warts. This can make it hard to diagnose the infection. If warts can be seen, your doctor may take a sample of tissue from a wart for testing.

How you can care for yourself

How can you care for yourself when you have human papillomavirus (HPV)?

  • Use a condom every time you have sex. Use it from the start to the end of sexual contact.
  • Be sure to tell your sexual partner or partners that you have HPV. Even if you don't have symptoms, you can still pass HPV to others.
  • Limit how many sex partners you have. The safest practice is to have only one sex partner who doesn't have STIs and doesn't have sex with anyone else. This lowers your risk of getting STIs.
  • Don't smoke. Smoking increases the risk for cervical problems and cervical cancer. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.