There are two types of HPV infections:
- Non-sexual infections most commonly caused by the HPV-1 virus. For the purpose of this article, these HPV infections will be referred to as skin infections.
- Sexual infections most commonly caused by the HPV-6 or HPV-11 virus. Rarely sexual infections can be caused by the cancer-causing HPV-16 or HPV-18. For the purpose of this article, sexual HPV infections will be referred to as genital infections.
Many times a person will experience no symptoms with a HPV infection. But when symptoms are present, there’s one similarity between the two types of infections. Symptoms for both the skin and genital HPV infections involve abnormal skin cell growth that causes a lump or wart to appear. The differences in symptoms between the two types of infections are the location, size and appearance of the growths.
Diagnosis of all types of HPV infections is done visually by a doctor. Some of the more minor HPV infections, like skin infections, can be treated with over-the-counter remedies that the patient applies. More severe cases of all types of HPV infections may require special removal treatments done by a qualified healthcare provider.
Skin infections occur when the HPV virus comes into contact with the skin through non-sexual touching. Occasionally touching an infected surface can spread the virus. Skin infections appear on the arms, hands, feet, legs, and sometimes the face or scalp. There are three types of HPV skin infections, and each has slightly different symptoms.
- Common skin warts
- Flat warts
- Plantar warts
- Subungual and periungual warts
Common skin warts: These types of warts are more likely to grow in an area of the skin that has already been injured, like a cut or scratch. Common warts are usually small and rarely get bigger than a quarter of an inch. They’re round, firm and painless, and can be white, pink, beige or brown. The surface of a common wart can be rough and uneven, like a cauliflower. Or the wart’s surface can be smooth and pearly.
Flat warts: These types of warts usually appear on the face and forehead. Sometimes they also appear on the neck, forearms, chest, hands or wrists. Flat warts are more common in children and teens than adults. Unlike common warts, these warts can be slightly itchy. Flat warts, as the name implies, are smooth and flat. They can be white, beige or brown.
Plantar warts: These warts grow on the heel or sole of the foot and can cause a lot of pain. They cause pain because most of the wart remains under the skin (usually as much as twice the size of what’s visible) and puts pressure on the tissues and muscles, especially when a person walks. The visible part of a plantar wart is usually gray or brown with a rough, spongy surface. Size can reach more than one-inch wide if left untreated. Untreated plantar warts can cause leg or back pain, or in severe cases affect a person’s posture and ability to walk.
Subungual and periungual warts: Small warts that grow under the fingernails and toenails. Sometimes
they grow just around the edges of the nails. They’re round, firm and painless,
and can be white, pink, beige or brown. The surfaces of subungual and
periungual warts can be rough and uneven, like a cauliflower. Or the wart’s
surface can be smooth and pearly. They’re usually small, not much bigger than
Genital infections are warts around the genital area. Warts in the mouth and throat are also classified as genital HPV infections.
Men and women have unique symptoms for the obvious reason that each has
different body parts.
Genital Warts in Men: The warts infect the urethra, penis, scrotem and rectal area. Genital
warts in men can be soft, smooth raised masses (usually on the penile shaft) to
narrow rough projections (usually on the rectal area). Other warts can be
shaped like a tiny cauliflower. Color of genital warts in men can be white and
pearly or brown. Some warts might be difficult to see in uncircumcised men
because because the foreskin hides the lesions.
Genital Warts in Women: Genital warts in women usually grow in the moist areas of the genitals like
the labia minora and vaginal opening. Warts can also appear inside the vaginal
canal, on the cervix, and around the anal opening. Genital warts in women look
similar to genital warts in men. Occasionally women with genital HPV infections
can experience bleeding during sex or have vaginal discharge.
This page was last updated:
July 10, 2006It is not the intention of Cervicalcancer.org to provide specific medical advice, but rather to provide users with information to better understand their health and their diagnosed disorders. Specific medical advice will not be provided, and Cervicalcancer.org urges you to consult with a qualified physician for diagnosis and for answers to your personal questions.