In many people who are infected with human papillomavirus, HPV symptoms do not appear. When symptoms do appear, they may be in the form of genital warts or precancerous changes in the cervix, vulva, anus, or penis. The virus is the major cause of cervical cancer, but this typically only occurs with an infection that remains for several years.
Signs and Symptoms of HPV: An OverviewHPV stands for human papillomavirus and includes over 100 different types. HPV infects the skin or mucous membranes (the moist, inner lining of some organs and body cavities, such as the nose, mouth, lungs, and stomach). HPV got its name because it can cause warts, known medically as papillomas.
But HPV can cause a number of other conditions besides warts. In fact, the symptoms that result when a person is infected will depend on which virus type is transmitted and the location of transmission. For example, unlike genital HPV, which is most often transmitted through skin-to-skin contact during sexual intercourse, the types of HPV that cause the warts that grow on hands and feet are not transmitted sexually.
Some diseases that HPV can cause include:
- Warts, including common warts, plantar warts, and flat warts
- Genital warts (known medically as condylomata acuminata or venereal warts)
- Precancerous changes in the cervix, vulva, anus, or penis
- Cervical cancer.
Fortunately, infections with most types of HPV are harmless and cause no symptoms.
Genital HPV SymptomsOver 30 types of HPV can be transmitted sexually. In fact, HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), with many millions of new genital HPV infections occurring each year in the United States. Because the virus rarely causes symptoms, the majority of infections are unnoticed.
Some people, however, will have symptoms with a genital HPV infection, including visible genital warts, or will have precancerous changes in the cervix, vulva, anus, or penis. In rare cases, HPV infection results in anal or genital cancer.