What Are Symptoms of HPV in Females?

Reviewed on 9/28/2021

Most women do not have any symptoms of HPV, but sometimes it can cause genital warts that appear as a small bump or group of bumps. These HPV warts may also cause itching, burning, or tenderness in the genital area (less common).
Most women do not have any symptoms of HPV, but sometimes it can cause genital warts that appear as a small bump or group of bumps. These HPV warts may also cause itching, burning, or tenderness in the genital area (less common).

HPV (human papillomavirus) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI), affecting 79 million people in the U.S., most in their late teens and early 20s. It is estimated that 80% of women will become infected with some type of HPV in their lifetime. 

Some types of HPV can cause health problems including genital warts and cancers, particularly ovarian cancer in females. 

Most women do not have any symptoms of HPV, which is why regular screening is recommended for females. Symptoms of HPV can also develop years after having sex with an infected person, making it difficult to know when infection first occurred.

HPV can cause genital warts. Characteristics of genital warts include: 

  • Small bump or group of bumps in the genital area
  • Can be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower
  • May be skin-colored or pink
  • Itching, burning, or tenderness in the genital area (less common)

Complications of HPV in females include cancers, such as:

HPV is a different virus than human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and herpes simplex virus (HSV).

How Is HPV (Human Papillomavirus) in Women Diagnosed?

Most females are diagnosed with HPV (human papillomavirus) through tests called Pap tests (also called Pap smears) used for cervical cancer screening in women aged 30 years and older. Pap smears check for abnormal cervical cells that were caused by HPV infection. These tests are not recommended for screening men, adolescents, or women under the age of 30 years. 

  • The HPV test is a test used to check cells for infection with types of HPV that have a higher risk of causing cervical cancer.
  • The HPV/Pap co-test uses a Pap test and HPV test together to check for both high-risk HPV and cervical cell changes.
  • There is no test for high-risk HPV in the vulva, anus, or throat.
  • Genital warts caused by HPV can be diagnosed with a physical examination, however, there is no specific test to determine if a person has HPV.  
  • If genital warts are suspected but the diagnosis is uncertain, a biopsy of the lesion may be taken to confirm the diagnosis. 

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What Is the Treatment for HPV (Human Papillomavirus) in Women?

There is no treatment for HPV (human papillomavirus) itself but there are treatments for the health problems caused by HPV.

Treatment for genital warts includes: 

  • Creams or liquids applied to the wart
  • Podophyllin 
  • Podofilox (Condylox
  • Bichloracetic acid and trichloroacetic acid 
  • Imiquimod (Aldara
  • Interferon 
  • Sinecatechins (e.g., Veregen
  • Surgical treatment
  • Removal of the wart (excision) 
  • Cryotherapy to freeze the wart
  • Electrocautery, which uses electrical energy to burn away warts
  • Lasers to destroy warts

Treatment for cancers caused by HPV may include: 

  • Surgery 
  • Radiation therapy 
  • Chemotherapy (“chemo”)
  • Chemoradiation, which is chemotherapy given along with radiation to help it work better
  • Targeted therapy 
  • Immunotherapy 

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Reviewed on 9/28/2021
References
https://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/genital-warts-in-women-beyond-the-basics?search=genital%20warts&source=search_result&selectedTitle=2~124&usage_type=default&display_rank=2

https://www.cancer.gov/types/cervical/understanding-abnormal-hpv-and-pap-test-results

https://www.womenshealth.gov/human-papillomavirus