HPV (warts)

updated 2 years ago in HIV and STIs

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What is HPV?

HPV is the human papillomavirus, which can affect anyone.

There are several different strains of HPV. Some strains can cause genital warts and anal warts. Other strains can also increase your risk of cancers affecting the throat, tongue, tonsils, penis, anus, cervix, vulva, vagina or front hole.

How do you get HPV?

HPV can spread through skin-to-skin contact. For genital warts, this can happen during oral, anal, or vaginal or front hole sex.

Transmission can happen even when there are no noticeable symptoms. Contact with visible warts makes it easier for the virus to spread.

What are the symptoms of HPV?

Some guys will have no symptoms at all.

Genital warts are raised bumps or growths on the skin of your penis, balls, arse, vagina or front hole, or occasionally on the mouth. They usually appear 3-12 months after exposure.

An estimated 80 per cent of sexually active adults will encounter HPV. Only about 10 per cent of guys with HPV will ever show any symptoms.

The strains of HPV that increase the risk of cancer do not cause genital warts and often have no symptoms at all.

How do I get tested for HPV?

A doctor can do a visual examination to diagnose genital warts.

If you have symptoms, you can get examined by your regular doctor or at a sexual health service.

How is HPV treated?

There is no medical cure for HPV, but there are options available for managing symptoms. For most people, the body’s natural immunity will get rid of the virus over time.

If warts do appear, your doctor can freeze or burn them off, or they may offer you laser treatment or a cream to apply.

Warts can come back after treatment, and you may need several treatments before they disappear completely.

What are the best ways to prevent HPV?

The HPV vaccine offers protection against the most common strains of HPV. Some of these strains can increase the risk of cancer and account for 90 per cent of genital warts. The vaccine is most effective if you get it before you are sexually active and exposed to HPV. Talk to your doctor about getting the HPV vaccine.

As well as the vaccine, the best way to protect yourself from HPV is by using condoms during sex. It is still possible for HPV to spread through uncovered skin-to-skin contact.