The symptoms of HPV infection

HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is a virus that can lead to cervical, penile and anal cancer, as well as skin and genital warts. An HPV infection can be particularly nasty because in most instances it is symptomless. It’s because of this (and the fact on how HPV is spread by skin to skin contact) that most people will be infected with HPV at some stage of their lives. Luckily, the majority of infections self-cure thanks to our immune systems.

The most common symptoms of HPV when they do present

Of the various types of HPV infection the most common that display actual symptoms are the variety of wart infections as detailed below.

  • Genital warts: These types of warts usually appear as flat lesions, rather like small-cauliflower-type bumps or protrusions. In women they often manifest themselves on the vulva (the outer parts of the vagina), in the vagina, near the anus or on the cervix. In men they usually appear on the penis, the scrotum, and/or around the anus. They are not normally painful but may cause irritation.
  • Common Warts: These appear as raised bumps. They are rough to the touch and usually manifest themselves on the fingers, the hands, and/or the elbows. They can cause embarrassment due to their appearance. They may also cause pain and discomfort and can easily be caught on clothing of other objects causing them to bleed.
  • Flat warts: As the name suggests flat warts are slightly raised and have a flat top. They most often appear on the face and neck or any other areas that have been scratched. These types of warts are more common in young people, adolescents and young adults.
  • Plantar warts: Flat warts are solid and grainy. They usually manifest themselves on the feet, particular the areas of the foot that are subject to most pressure, such as the heel and the ball of the foot. They are often painful.

Cervical cancer and the lack of symptoms

Approximately 70% of instances of cervical cancer are caused by HPV strains 16 and 18. Unfortunately neither of these two strains causes warts, therefore the women who do develop cervical cancer display no symptoms. This is why it is so important for women to have their regular smear or pap tests carried out.

HPV diagnosis and smear tests via Broadgate Clinic London Wall

The diagnosis for an HPV infection depends on the type of infection. If the infection is of one of the wart varieties, a simple visual examination by a GP is sufficient.

There is no blood test that can discern any type of HPV infection, however with cervical cancer, the smear or Pap test results will diagnose the presence of abnormal cells that could develop into cervical cancer.

Both the visual examination and the smear or Pap test can be carried out at the sexual health clinic London and well women health service clinic operated by Broadgate Clinic London Wall. Both clinics offer a walk-in service with no need to make a prior appointment.