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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Symptoms

It is possible to have an HPV skin or genital infection without having symptoms. When an HPV infection does cause a wart, the appearance varies slightly depending on its location:

  • Common skin warts These most often affect the hands, face, skin or scalp, and are especially common on sites of previous skin injury. They are small (about 6 millimeters or one-fourth of an inch), firm, painless, rounded growths that are whitish, pink, beige or brown. The wart surface may be smooth and pearly or rough like a cauliflower.

  • Flat warts These are flat, white, beige or brown growths. They do not usually itch. They typically occur on the face, neck, chest, forearms, wrists or hands.

  • Plantar warts These are thick, painful overgrowths of skin on the soles of the feet. They are often mistaken for simple calluses.

  • Genital warts These usually appear as one to 10 pink, painless growths with a rough, cauliflower-like surface. In men, genital warts most commonly affect the tip of the penis, the opening of the urethra and the skin around the anus (especially in men who practice anal sex). In women, genital warts usually appear first at the posterior opening of the vagina and on the labia (the lip-like folds of skin around the vagina).

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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