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Symptoms of human papillomavirus

Human papillomavirus (HPV) manifests in various ways, often with subtle symptoms that require attention and understanding.

  • 23 Nov 2023
  • 3 min read

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is mainly known to cause warts, which are typical HPV symptoms. However, some types of HPV can cause cancer of the anus, penis, vagina, vulva, and oropharynx (back of the throat). HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) affecting the genitals and gets passed on through skin-to-skin contact. Most genital HPV strains are harmless, including the type of HPV that causes genital warts, while some strains of HPV are high-risk and can cause cancer, such as cervical cancer. Early detection and prompt treatment can help a person recover from the various diseases caused by HPV.


What are the symptoms of human papillomavirus?

Human papillomavirus infection symptoms around the genitals are usually mild and not noticeable. Still, when they do, the most common sign is warts in the genital area, known as genital warts.


Genital warts 

These warts are rough small skin bumps with stem-like protrusions and resemble cauliflowers. These warts come in various sizes and appearances. Some are large, others small and white, pink, red, purplish-brown, or skin-coloured. Genital warts can cause itching, burning, and general discomfort in the area where they have grown. The signs of wart growth usually appear weeks, months, or even years after a person has been infected with HPV. These genital warts can form on the 

  • Vulva
  • Cervix
  • Penis or scrotum
  • Anus
  • Groin area

Also read:

Other types of warts

HPV can also cause different types of warts: 

  • Common warts: These are rough, raised bumps that can form on the hands, fingers, and elbows.
  • Plantar warts: These warts have hard, grainy growths that often form on the feet.
  • Flat warts: These are flat-topped, slightly raised lesions that often appear on the face or neck.

Some high-risk forms of HPV do not always cause symptoms until they become cancerous. For instance, cervical cancer is the most common HPV-related cancer that can cause life-threatening complications.



Prevention of HPV is essential in fighting cervical cancer. The CDC recommends that a person be vaccinated to avoid infection from HPV that can turn into cervical cancer; however, all HPV forms are not high-risk. Taking necessary precautions can help a person overcome most HPV infections. If a person gets infected by chance, embarrassment prevents them from scheduling a visit to the healthcare provider. However, remember that untreated HPV can cause long-term health damage. It is advisable to take regular Pap smears and HPV tests as they can indicate whether an HPV infection is turning cancerous.

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