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HPV and Genital Warts: Understanding Your Diagnosis

HPV (human papillomavirus) is the virus that causes genital warts. If you have HPV, you’re not alone. Millions of people carry this virus. In most cases, the virus goes away without causing problems. But when it does not go away, it can cause problems like genital warts and cancer. Finding out you have HPV may be upsetting for you and your partner. But learning about HPV and its treatments can make you both feel better. Then you can go on with your lives together.

Accepting your diagnosis

At first, it may be hard to respond to what you’ve learned. Take time to let everything sink in. Here are some things to think about:

  • How your body looks. Remember that genital warts can be removed. You may feel better if you share any concerns about your body with your partner. The HPV types (strains) linked to warts are not the ones linked to cancer. Those linked to cancer do not produce visible warts.

  • Long-term health issues. Some types (strains) of HPV are linked to cervical and other cancers.  Taking care of yourself and seeing your healthcare provider as directed reduces the cancer risk. Having a cervical, vaginal, or anal Pap smear can find abnormalities before cancer develops.

  • Protecting your partner. Being honest about HPV will protect your partner’s health. You and your partner can take steps to keep HPV from spreading. If you’re with someone new, talk about HPV before you have sex.

Talking with your partner

  • If you’re calm, your partner may find it easier to stay calm. Remember, HPV can take months or years to produce symptoms, including warts. It’s nearly impossible to know who was infected first. Try not to blame each other.

  • Suggest that your partner get checked. Even if no warts are present, seeing a healthcare provider may make your partner feel better.

  • When you both feel ready, it’s OK to have sex. It’s safest to use male and female latex condoms every time. But know that condoms and other barriers only protect the skin they cover. Warts are contagious, so don't touch them. (This includes oral sex.)

  • If you’re in a committed relationship and are not currently using condoms, talk about if you want to change your habits. Remember that condoms are the only effective way to protect against many diseases.

  • Suggest that your partner ask their provider about the HPV vaccine. And ask your own provider if this vaccine is right for you.

  • If you have children, talk with your provider about giving them the HPV vaccine. They will then be less likely to get HPV during their lives.

Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Sabrina Felson MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Sravani Chintapalli
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2024
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