There is no specific treatment for HPV, but there are treatments for health problems caused by HPV. Genital warts can be treated by your healthcare provider, or with prescription medication. HPV-related cancers are more treatable when diagnosed and treated promptly. For more information, visit www.cancer.org.
Genital wart: A wart in the moist skin of the genitals or around the anus. Genital warts are due to a human papillomavirus (HPV). The HPVs, including those that cause genital warts, are transmitted through sexual contact. HPV can also be transmitted from mother to baby during childbirth. Most people infected with HPV have no symptoms, but these viruses increase a woman’s risk for cancer of the cervix. HPV infection is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the US. It is also the leading cause of abnormal PAP smears and pre-cancerous changes of the cervix in women. There is no cure for HPV infection, although anti-viral medications can reduce outbreaks and topical preparations can speed healing. Once contracted, the virus can stay with a person for life. Also called condyloma acuminatum, condylomata.
Using non-prescription medicines, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (such as Advil), or acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) to help relieve pain. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 18, because of the risk of Reye syndrome, a serious but rare illness. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
Some people have had success treating warts with duct tape. The process involves covering the wart with a small piece of duct tape for several days, then soaking the wart, and, finally, rubbing the wart to remove the dead skin. This approach can take several rounds of treatments to work.
HPV can cause cervical and other cancers including cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. It can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (called oropharyngeal cancer).
Micrograph of a common wart (verruca vulgaris) showing the characteristic features (hyperkeratosis, acanthosis, hypergranulosis, rete ridge elongation, and large blood vessels at the dermoepidermal junction, H&E stain)
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Age & cancer — HPV is responsible for approximately 63% of penile cancer in the USA. The median age of diagnosis is 68 years old but can be as early as in your 30s. If you observe other symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss, blood from your penis, lumps on your penis, velvety rash, hardened penile skin, and smelly discharge, then a visit to the doctor is urgent.
Plantar warts can develop on any part of the foot. As the callus and wart get larger, walking can become painful, much like walking with a pebble in your shoe. When pressure from standing or walking pushes a plantar wart beneath the skin’s surface, a layer of thick, tough skin similar to a callus develops over it. Sometimes dark specks are visible beneath the surface of the wart.
HPV infections in men are less likely to result in visible genital warts. Sometimes there is just itching, inflammation, and discharge. It can take up to three months after an infection for warts to appear, and up to 50% of men who carry HPV don’t ever develop visible warts.
There are three vaccines approved to protect against HPV. Gardasil protects against infection from four strains of the HPV virus and offers modest protection against genital warts.Two of these strains, HPV-16 and HPV-18, account for about 70% of cervical cancers. The other two strains covered by the vaccine, HPV- 6 and HPV-11, account for about 90% of genital warts. The vaccine is approved for 9- to 26-year-old females and males.
The cost. Home treatment is often as effective as treatment by a doctor. But home treatment may take longer. Less expensive home treatments include tape occlusion (duct tape) and non-prescription salicylic acid.
HPV is a virus that is very common. In fact, most men and women are infected with HPV at some time in their lives. There are approximately 100 types of HPV. Some HPV types infect the genital area and may cause warts (“low-risk” HPV), while others may cause abnormal cell changes in men of the anus or penis (“high-risk” HPV) – these types are also linked with abnormal cervical cell changes in women.
Try it at home. Light a match, blow it out, and while the match head is still hot, touch it to the wart. This causes blistering that initiates a healing response. Peel the layer of infected skin off, and cover with aloe and a strip bandage. Repeat as necessary. Try this at your own risk. Very dangerous.
Updated by: David L. Swanson, MD, Vice Chair of Medical Dermatology, Associate Professor of Dermatology, Mayo Medical School, Scottsdale, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
As the name suggests, genital warts affect the moist tissues of the genital area. Genital warts may look like small, flesh-colored bumps or have a cauliflower-like appearance. In many cases, the warts are too small to be visible.
An HPV vaccine called Gardasil can protect men and women from the most common HPV strains that cause genital warts, and can also protect against strains of HPV that are linked to cervical cancer. A vaccine called Cervarix is also available. This vaccine protects against cervical cancer, but not against genital warts.
It depends. There are many types of HPV, and the types that cause common warts are usually different from those that cause plantar warts and genital warts. If the wart on a person’s hand is caused by a type of HPV that can also cause genital warts, then there is a chance that skin contact could cause genital warts.
Frankly speaking, warts are one skin problem that most people end up face to face with at some stage in their life. This undesirable condition has the tendency just to spring up unannounced and certainly not seem to want to go away – ever.
HPV is most commonly transmitted through penetrative sex. While HPV can also be transmitted via non-penetrative sexual activity, it is less transmissible than via penetrative sex. There is conflicting evidence about the effect of condoms on transmission of low-risk HPV. Some studies have suggested that they are effective at reducing transmission. Other studies suggest that condoms are not effective at preventing transmission of the low-risk HPV variants that cause genital warts. The effect of condoms on HPV transmission may also be gender-dependent; there is some evidence that condoms are more effective at preventing infection of males than of females.
The downside of these methods is that they may require repeat visits to the doctor, making them expensive in the long run. Instead, you can use home remedies that are easily accessible and affordable to help treat your warts.
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Kids and teens get more warts than adults because their immune systems haven’t built up defenses against the many types of HPV. People with weakened immune systems — like those with HIV or who are taking biologic drugs for conditions like RA, psoriasis, and IBD — are also more susceptible to getting warts because their body may not be able to fight them off.
We do not have a cure for genital warts or HPV. Once you contract the virus, you have it for life. While over-the-counter products exist to care for genital warts from the skin and ease bothersome symptoms, they will not cure you of the condition. HPV lives within the body and is always contagious, even when you do not have symptoms.
An aerosol spray with a mixture of dimethyl ether and propane (DMEP) can be purchased over the counter to freeze common and plantar warts. It is important to read and follow the instructions carefully.
For example, children get skin warts much more often than adults. This is probably because their immune systems have not yet built a strong defense against the numerous strains of human papillomavirus that they will encounter over their lifetimes.
“Genital warts usually appear in the weeks or months after you’re infected, but it’s possible for them to pop up years down the road,” says Mary Jane Minkin, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Yale School of Medicine. So don’t even think about trying to point fingers. Other crappy news: You can’t cure the virus, so while warts can be removed (usually through freezing them off or applying a prescription cream), there’s a chance they can reappear in the future.
HPV can interact with herpes to trigger cancers of the penis, anus, and the skin on the scrotum and crotch. Beta-carotene, the antioxidant found in carrots, winter squash, pumpkin, and certain kinds of algae, stops the chemical changes induced by the herpesvirus on HPV.
The topical creams must be applied by a physician as application may be painful, or have side effects. These creams can treat areas that are difficult to access, or remove a large area of warts quickly.
Signs of an infection include increasing redness and pain at the treatment site, red streaks going up an extremity toward the heart, pus coming from the wound, or a fever of 101 F or higher. If any of these occur, you need to follow up with your doctor or be seen in a hospital’s emergency department.
Imiquimod is a topically active immune enhancer that stimulates production of interferon and other cytokines. Imiquimod cream should be applied once daily at bedtime, three times a week for up to 16 weeks (407). The treatment area should be washed with soap and water 6–10 hours after the application. Local inflammatory reactions, including redness, irritation, induration, ulceration/erosions, and vesicles, are common with the use of imiquimod, and hypopigmentation has also been described (408). Imiquimod might weaken condoms and vaginal diaphragms. The safety of imiquimod during pregnancy has not been established.
Don’t try to treat genital warts with over-the-counter wart removers. These medications aren’t intended for use in the moist tissues of the genital area. Using over-the-counter medications for this purpose can cause even more pain and irritation.