What Is HPV in Women?


Quick Answer

Human papilloma virus, or HPV, is a category of sexually transmitted infections, and many types cause common warts to grow on a woman's hands, chest or limbs, according to the American Cancer Society. More than 150 forms of HPV exist. The viruses thrive in tissue made up of squamous epithelial cells, so the infection typically develops near a woman's mouth, nose respiratory tract, inner eyelids, anus or reproductive organs.

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Full Answer

Men and women can contract HPV through sexual activity, but high-risk strains of the virus may lead to vaginal, cervical, anal or vulvar cancer in women, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states. Roughly 14 million people are infected with HPV annually, but carriers may have no symptoms or develop complications years after being exposed. The virus can also lead to genital warts, which usually appear as small clusters of raised or cauliflower-shaped bumps.

Women can develop painful plantar warts on their feet, which appear as hard growths on the balls or heels, according to Mayo Clinic. HPV can also trigger raised, flat-topped warts on the face or neck, which is more common in young girls. Infections in the respiratory tract can lead to harmful lesions on the nose, mouth, tonsils or tongue. Women with multiple sexual partners, weakened immune systems or open wounds are most at risk of contracting the infection and experiencing symptoms. Doctors can administer HPV vaccines to girls as young as 11 years old to prevent the infection, while routine Pap tests are recommended to increase the chance of early detection in adult women.

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