The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common infection affecting about 1 in 4 people in the United States.
The virus, which spreads through skin-to-skin or other intimate contact, will often go away on its own, although certain strains can cause cervical cancer.
At this time, there isn’t a cure for HPV, though its symptoms can be treated. Some types of HPV go away on their own.
There are also vaccines available to prevent infection with high-risk strains.
These can appear as flat lesions, tiny stem-like lumps, or as small cauliflower-like bumps. Although they may itch, they generally don’t cause pain or discomfort.
Genital warts on women typically occur on the vulva, but could also appear inside the vagina or on the cervix. On men, they appear on the penis and scrotum.
Both men and women can have genital warts around the anus.
Although genital warts may be the first type of wart to come to mind, this isn’t always the case. You may also experience:
- Common warts. These rough, raised bumps appear on the hands, fingers, or elbows. They may cause pain and are sometimes prone to bleeding.
- Flat warts. These dark, slightly raised lesions can occur anywhere on the body.
- Plantar warts. These hard, grainy lumps can cause discomfort. They generally occur on the ball or heel of the foot.
- Oropharyngeal warts. These are lesions of various shapes and sizes that can occur on the tongue, cheek, or other oral surfaces. They’re generally not painful.
Depending on the state of your immune system, this can take 5 to 20 years to develop.
Cervical cancer is generally asymptomatic until it has reached a later stage. Advanced symptoms of cervical cancer include:
- irregular bleeding, bleeding between periods, or abnormal vaginal bleeding after sex
- leg, back, or pelvic pain
- vaginal pain
- foul smelling discharge
- weight loss
- loss of appetite
- a single swollen leg
HPV can also lead to cancers that affect the following areas of the body:
At this time, there aren’t any medically-supported natural treatments for symptoms of HPV.
According to an article in Science News, a 2014 pilot study explored the effects of shiitake mushroom extract on clearing HPV from the body, but it produced mixed results.
Of the 10 women studied, 3 appeared to clear the virus, while 2 experienced declining virus levels. The remaining 5 women were unable to clear the infection.
The study is now in phase II of clinical trials.
Although there isn’t a cure for HPV, there are treatments for the health problems that HPV can cause.
Many warts will clear up without treatment, but if you prefer not to wait, you can have them removed by the following methods and products:
- topical creams or solutions
- cryotherapy, or freezing and removing the tissue
- luster therapy
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for wart removal. The best option for you will depend on several factors, including the size, number, and location of your warts.
If precancerous or cancerous cells are discovered in the cervix, your doctor will remove them in one of three ways:
- surgical conization, which involves removing a cone-shaped piece of tissue
- loop electrosurgical excision, which involves removing the tissue with a hot wire loop
If precancerous or cancerous cells are discovered in other areas of the body, such as on the penis, the same options for removal can be used.
HPV is a common infection that usually goes away on its own. Certain strains of HPV can develop into something much more serious, such as cervical cancer.
There are currently no medical or natural treatments for the virus, but its symptoms are treatable.
If you have HPV, it’s important to practice safe sex methods to prevent transmission. You should also get routinely screened for HPV and cervical cancer.