The human papillomavirus, better known by the acronym HPV, is a virus that can be transmitted by the sexual way or by the direct contact with the skin.

HPV is responsible for the appearance of common skin warts and genital warts, also known as condyloma acuminata or Gallic crest. But what makes HPV a virus of great medical relevance is that it is related to almost 100% of cases of cervical cancer, one of the most common types of cancer in the female population.

In this article we will explain what is the HPV virus, how it is transmitted, what are Hpv Symptoms and complications, what are the treatment options and their chances of cure.


HPV is a virus that exclusively infects humans and attacks the epithelial cells of the skin and mucosa. The action of the virus on the skin cells favors the formation of tumors, most of them small and benign, such as common skin warts or genital warts. However, when the infected area is the lining of the cervix, vagina, penis or anus, the virus can induce the formation of malignant tumors, for example, causing cancer of the cervix and anal cancer.

There are more than 150 human papillomavirus subtypes. Each subtype of the virus has an attraction to a certain area of ​​the body. For example, HPV-2 and HPV-4 are associated with common skin warts, while HPV-1 causes warts that preferentially affect the soles of the feet. HPV-6 and HPV-11 are related to the development of genital warts. Cervical cancer can be caused by several subtypes, as we will see below, but most cases occur when a woman becomes infected with HPV-16 or HPV-18.


As already explained, each subtype of HPV has preference for a certain area of ​​the body:

  • Subtypes 1, 2, 4, 26, 27, 29, 41, 57, 65 and 75 to 78 usually cause common skin warts.
  • Subtypes 3, 10, 27, 28, 38, 41 and 49 also cause warts on the skin, but are usually called flat warts.
  • Subtypes 1, 2, 4, 60, 63 cause warts on the soles of the feet.
  • Subtypes 1 to 6, 10, 11, 16, 18, 30, 31, 33, 35, 39 to 45, 51 to 59, 70 and 83 may cause genital or anal warts (condylomata acuminata). Note: 90% of cases of genital warts are caused by subtypes 6 and 11.

HPV-16 and HPV-18, which are the most closely related to cervical cancer, do not usually cause any Hpv SymptomsThe vast majority of women infected with human papillomavirus do not even suspect they have the virus. The diagnosis of infection usually occurs through preventive gynecological examination.


In cases of skin or genital warts, the HPV diagnosis is clinical, through a simple physical examination. Just identify the presence of the wart, no further testing is required. In the specific case of genital warts, although the diagnosis of human papillomavirus is obvious, it is important that the patient is tested for other STDs, as it is very common for a person to have more than one STD at a time.

The diagnosis of HPV in women with the infected cervix is ​​more complex. There are no symptoms and Pap test findings are not always characteristic of human papillomavirus infection. To look for the presence of the virus, the gynecologist needs to collect during the gynecological examination a small sample of material from the cervix and the inside of the vagina. This material is sent to the laboratory so that it can look for the presence of HPV. If HPV is present, the laboratory is able to report the subtype of the virus responsible for the infection.


As previously mentioned, about 90% of HPV infections heal on their own after 1 or 2 years.

In fact, the human papillomavirus has a curious feature: it is an infection that has no treatment but has a cure. There are no drugs that kill the virus or speed up the healing process. The only option is to wait for the immune system to spontaneously kill the virus over time.

In patients who develop warts, treatment is aimed only at the elimination of the lesion. When the wart is removed this does not mean that the virus has been eliminated from the body. The patient remains infected and can develop new warts while HPV is present.

The situation is similar to that of women who develop premalignant lesions (intraepithelial neoplasms) of the cervix. When a premalignant lesion is identified, the gynecologist removes it surgically, but that does not mean that the patient has been cured of HPV. If it remains infected, potentially new malignant lesions may arise over the years.

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