What is HPV?

HPV (Human papilloma virus) is actually a family containing over 100 viruses. Approximately one-third of these cause genital problems that affect both sexes. It is primarily spread through skin-to-skin genital, anal or oral sexual contact.

Problems may include genital warts & cell changes, particularly in the cervix of women. In a small number of women, these changes may be precancerous. Cervical changes can be detected by annual pap smears.

Genital warts or condyloma, is one type of lesion caused by HPV. They can occur on the shaft or head of a man's penis, or on a woman's vagina, vulva, or cervix. They can also appear around the anus and urethra in both men and women. In some cases, warts may appear as small, hard spots or have a fleshy cauliflower appearance. In many other cases, warts are not visible to the naked eye.


Most lesions caused by HPV can be eliminated through proper treatment and follow-up. Treatment should enable the immune system to sufficiently control the virus. However, as with most infections, the HPV virus will remain in the body.

There are several ways to treat genital warts. These include cryotherapy, laser surgery, liquid nitrogen, 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) cream. Trichloracetic acid (TCA) and interferon. Your health care provider will discuss the best treatment for your situation. It is not uncommon for multiple treatments to be required.

Cervical lesions (also called dysplasia or cervical intra epithelial neoplasis) also may be treated in a variety of ways based on risk of sexual transmission and severity of the diagnosis. Some low-risk cases only involve close observation through regular examinations and Pap smears. For higher-risk cases, the cervix may be treated with cryotherapy, laser, or loop excision.

How to Prevent HPV Infections or Control HPV if You are Diagnosed with It

  • Get vaccinated! Gardasil, approved by the FDA in July 2006 for girls and women ages 9 through 26, is highly effective against four types of HPV, including two that cause most cervical cancers.
  • Have regular check ups.
  • Make sure to have an annual exam and Pap test. If infected, you will need more frequent exams. Your health care provider can help you determine the frequency.
  • Practice safer sex.
  • Keep your immune system healthy by: eating nutritionally, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and avoiding tobacco.
  • Examine your genitals regularly to check for visible warts. If you see any, make a visit to your health care provider. Don’t try to remove them with over-the-counter medications.


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To schedule or cancel appointments, call: 814-898-6217.

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. This information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.