Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a group of viruses that can cause warts to develop on your body, including on and around your penis.
HPV is incredibly common, with almost 80 million Americans currently infected. While there’s currently no treatment for HPV itself, treatments are available for the warts that the virus may cause to develop on and around your penis, scrotum and buttocks.
If you’ve noticed warts around your penis and think you may have HPV, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider.
Below, we’ve provided additional information about HPV in men, from the symptoms you may notice to the most common causes of HPV.
We’ve also listed the treatments that are currently available for genital warts caused by HPV, from topical medications to freezing, electrocautery and other wart removal procedures.
Most of the time, HPV doesn’t cause any symptoms. Instead, the infection gradually clears up on its own over time, often with no noticeable signs that it’s ever present.
If an HPV infection doesn’t clear up on its own, it may cause warts to gradually develop around your body. Growth and warts caused by HPV can develop on or near your:
When HPV is transferred through oral sex, it may also cause lesions to develop in your mouth, around your tonsils and inside your throat.
Genital warts can vary in size, shape and appearance. They may develop as one wart, or as a cluster of multiple warts on a small area of skin. Most look like small bumps that are raised or flat. Some warts may have a bumpy, cauliflower-like appearance.
Not all types of HPV cause genital warts. In fact, of the more than 100 different types of HPV, only a small few are associated with genital warts.
Although HPV isn’t a form of cancer, the HPV virus has the potential to cause changes to your cells that may increase your risk of developing cancer.
In men, HPV may lead to penile cancer, anal cancer and, in the case of oral HPV, cancer that affects the tongue, tonsils or throat. In women, HPV may lead to cancer of the cervix, vagina or vulva.
Cancer from HPV can take years or decades to develop. The types of HPV that cause cancer are not the same as the types of HPV that cause genital warts, meaning genital warts aren’t a reliable indicator that you have an elevated risk of certain cancers.
HPV is a sexually transmitted infection. You can contract it by having vaginal, oral or anal sex with a person who is infected with HPV. Many infected people have no symptoms, meaning you can potentially contract HPV even if your partner doesn’t have any genital warts.
In some cases, it can take months or years for HPV symptoms to develop, making it difficult to work out when you first came into contact with the virus.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to have sex with a large number of partners in order to be to risk of contracting HPV. Because HPV is so common, it’s possible to contract it even if you only ever have one sexual partner.
Although HPV isn’t treatable, the genital warts caused by certain types of HPV are. A variety of treatments are available for genital warts, including topical medications and surgical procedures to freeze, shrink or remove warts from your body.
Some genital warts will clear without the use of medication. However, medication can speed up the process, relieving issues such as pain or itching and reducing the risk of HPV spreading to other people.
Several medications are used to treat genital warts caused by HPV:
If you’re given medication to treat genital warts, make sure to use it exactly as prescribed. Take the medication for the entire amount of time it’s prescribed to you, even if you notice the genital warts shrinking or disappearing before the end of the treatment period.
If the medications above aren’t effective, or if your healthcare provider believes your warts can be removed without the use of medication, they may suggest a surgical procedure to cut off or destroy the genital warts.
Surgical procedures for genital warts caused by HPV include:
In addition to surgical procedures, some healthcare providers may inject medication directly into genital warts caused by HPV. Medications such as interferon, which stops virus and cell growth, may be helpful for treating genital warts when other medications aren’t effective.
Although many surgical procedures for genital warts produce an immediate improvement, some may require multiple treatments. Your healthcare provider will let you know if you need to return for a second or third treatment in order to fully remove genital warts caused by HPV.
Although there’s no treatment for HPV itself, there are several steps that you can take to reduce your risk of contractingHPV or spreading it to others.
One of these is using condoms. While condoms won’t completely eliminate your risk of contracting or spreading HPV, they will reduce it by a significant amount. Using condoms also significantly reduces your risk of exposure to numerous other sexually transmitted infections.
Another step that you can take to significantly reduce your risk of contracting or spreading HPV is getting the HPV vaccine. You may have already received this as a child.
Although the vaccine isn’t effective against all types of HPV, it provides protection against many forms of the virus, including those that can lead to cancer. The CDC recommends the vaccine for everyone under the age of 26, as well as some adults aged 27 through forty-five.
If you have HPV and notice genital warts on your penis, scrotum, anus or other areas close to your genitals, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider.
Genital warts from HPV can be treated with several topical medications. In certain cases, your healthcare provider may recommend a surgical treatment to remove the genital warts, such as cryotherapy or surgical excision.
If your genital warts come back, keep in touch with our healthcare provider. It may take several treatments to fully remove the warts from your penis and surrounding area.