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Complications of HPV and Genital Warts

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Updated December 11, 2003

Complications of HPV and Genital Warts

Low-risk papilloma viruses cause warts but not cervical cancer. High-risk viruses, however, cause cervical cancer and also are associated with vulvar cancer, anal cancer, and cancer of the penis (a rare cancer). Although most HPV infections do not progress to cancer, it is particularly important for women who have cervical dysplasia to have regular Pap smears. Potentially pre-cancerous cervical disease is readily treatable.

Genital warts may cause a number of problems during pregnancy. Sometimes they enlarge during pregnancy, making urination difficult. If the warts are on the vaginal wall, they can make the vagina less elastic and cause obstruction during delivery.

Rarely, infants born to women with genital warts develop laryngeal papillomatosis (warts in the throat). Although uncommon, it is a potentially life-threatening condition for the child, requiring frequent laser surgery to prevent obstruction of the airways. Research on the use of interferon therapy in combination with laser surgery indicates that this drug may show promise in slowing the course of the disease.

Reprinted from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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