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HPV fact sheet

What is HPV and how do I tell if I have it?

HPV is a category name for a group of contagious skin viruses that cause different types of warts. Some people exhibit warts, but many never do.

HPV (Human Papilloma Virus)
Currently there are over eighty-five identified types of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) known to exist. The virus causes rapid cell growth on the outer skin layers, resulting in growths commonly known as warts.

The Human Papilloma Virus is the leading cause of infections of the skin and is the leading sexually transmitted disease in the United States.

Some of the more common forms of HPV are:
• Common Warts
• Plantars Warts
• Skin Tags (Acrochordons)
• Genital HPV

Common warts
Common warts are non-cancerous growths that form most often on the hands. Typically, they appear on the back of the hand or on the fingers.

Common warts are small fleshy growths, usually white in color and rough to the touch. Sometimes they may have a pink tint or contain small black dots.

These warts are caused by direct contact with the Human Papilloma Virus, particularly when there exists a cut or open wound on the area of contact.

Common warts will eventually die, or a doctor may expedite removal. Over the counter applications are also available for treating them. Since there is no known cure, removal is no guarantee against re-occurrence.

Plantars Warts

Plantars Warts are non-cancerous growths that form on the bottom of the foot.

This form of the Human Papilloma Virus lives in warm, moist areas, thus it is contracted similarly to the way one would contract athlete’s foot (from frequent barefoot exposure to public shower areas, for example).

Due to pressure on the foot from walking, Plantars warts tend to develop deeper in the skin of the foot.

They can appear similar in color as Common warts, but they usually have a harder surface, do not protrude as much, and are darker in color.

If left untreated, this type of HPV will be attacked by the body and die in one to two years. A Podiatrist can remove plantar warts if they cause too much discomfort while walking or running.

Skin Tags
Skin Tags (Acrochordons) are the small, pointy pieces of skin known to grow on the neck, under armpits or in the groin area. Skin Tags typically appear on older persons, particularly on women.

There is some evidence that Skin Tags may be hereditary. Other than a negative impact on a person’s physical appearance or irritation from contact with clothing, skin tags are harmless and will not develop into cancer. Unlike Plantars or Common warts, Skin Tags will not die over time and disappear.

Treatment for removal involves cutting with sharp scissors, and should be performed by your doctor.

Genital HPV
Genital HPV is a highly contagious form of the Human Papilloma Virus that is contracted through direct contact with the virus.

Physical symptoms of the virus are growths similar in appearance to Skin Tags, although they may take the shape of other types of warts, causing them to be commonly referred to as Genital Warts.

Approximately 20 million Americans have genital HPV, and less than 4% of these people have been diagnosed with or are being treated for the virus. Most people show no physical symptoms and do not know that they have the virus. Read our fact sheet on genital warts.

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