What’s the Best Treatment for HPV?

Woman speaking with her gynecologist

You may have heard this line already: HPV (the Human Papillomavirus) has no cure.

However, this doesn’t mean you’re doomed to lifelong management of this virus. Surprisingly, it often clears up on its own. It also may never cause symptoms.

For cases where it does cause symptoms or other issues, there are treatment options available. Specifically, treatment is available to address genital warts. There is also monitoring and testing that can help manage high-risk HPV types, preventing cancer or detecting it early.

So, if you’ve recently faced an HPV diagnosis, what should you know about your treatment options? Below, we explore exactly that and more.

What Should You Do If You Have HPV and No Symptoms?

Many people may not need any treatment. As mentioned above, some cases resolve all on their own. Either way, it’s likely your doctor will monitor things and ensure that no complications arise.

For women, it’s likely your doctor will perform a Pap smear test. This checks for abnormalities, as well as the DNA of HPV. Knowing the type of HPV is important since high-risk types can lead to warts and cancer. Unfortunately, there is no similar test for men currently.

If it’s discovered that you have an HPV type that puts you at a higher risk of cancer, you may need Pap tests at shorter intervals. This will help monitor for any signs of cellular changes and pre-cancerous cells — which can be the first signs of cervical cancer.

In some cases, your doctor may perform a colposcopy, or they may refer you to a specialist to do so. This test involves a closer examination of your cervix, vagina, and vulva. Often, it includes a biopsy of the area to test for abnormal cells.

What happens if you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant? This is something you’ll definitely want to tell your doctor before beginning any treatment. In fact, your doctor may recommend delaying treatment until after you give birth.

What If Abnormal Cell Changes Are Present?

If your doctor determines abnormal cellular changes, this could be a risk of cervical cancer. However, it’s important to note that it doesn’t mean you have cancer. Usually, the next step is monitoring, such as more frequent Pap testing. In some cases, these cellular changes resolve on their own as well.

In other cases, your doctor may decide its best to treat these abnormal cells. This all depends on a case-by-case basis. Methods used for this type of treatment include:

  • Conization: This involves the removal of abnormal cells.
  • Cryotherapy: This procedure freezes the abnormal cells using carbon dioxide or liquid nitrogen.
  • Laser Therapy: With the use of light, the abnormal cells are burned off.
  • Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP): Using an electric current, the abnormal cells are removed, along with any cells containing HPV.

What If You Have Genital Warts?

If you’ve been diagnosed with HPV types 6 or 11, you may be more likely to develop genital warts. Genital warts aren’t ideal for anyone. Characterized as small bumps on or around the cervix, vulva, anus, penis, scrotum, thigh, or groin, these growths can appear raised or flat.

While your instinct may be to opt for aggressive treatment straight away, it’s possible more could appear. This would mean you’ll have to undergo multiple rounds of treatment.

The types of warts linked to HPV types 6 and 11 often grow for around six months. After this, they often stabilize. In some cases, genital warts will even go away without treatment. Ultimately, your doctor will decide what’s best for you.

If your doctor recommends treatment, it may involve the use of a prescription cream, such as Imiquimod or Podofilox. Imiquimod helps support the immune system, directly fighting the virus. Meanwhile, Podofilox cream is typically used for about four weeks and helps destroy the wart tissue. In most cases, about 45-90% of warts will go away with these methods. Yet, sometimes, they may return.

Luckily, there are other treatment options, including:

  • Cryotherapy: Similar to how it removes abnormal cells, it can freeze away wart tissue.
  • Surgical Removal: Some cases may require the removal of the warts with the use of a scalpel. This is usually for more severe cases that don’t respond to other treatment options. It also often will resolve the problem in only one visit.
  • Trichloracetic acid: This chemical is applied to the wart to kill the tissue.
  • Electrocautery: This involves the use of an electric current to burn off the wart tissue.
  • Laser: This method helps vaporize the wart tissue.

With the exception of surgical removal, most of the above treatment strategies are 80-90% effective. Typically, smaller warts tend to improve faster than larger ones. If warts continue to reappear or don’t respond to most treatments conducted, your doctor is likely to do further testing. This will help determine what is happening beneath the surface.


  1. HPV Treatment | CDC. (n.d.). https://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/treatment.htm#:~:text=There%20is%20no%20treatment%20for,grow%20in%20size%20or%20number.
  2. What’s the Treatment for HPV? (2017, May 10). WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/sexual-conditions/hpv-genital-warts/hpv-treatment-is-there-hpv-cure
  3. Sachan, P. L., Singh, M., Patel, M. L., & Sachan, R. (2018). A Study on Cervical Cancer Screening Using Pap Smear Test and Clinical Correlation. Asia-Pacific journal of oncology nursing, 5(3), 337–341. https://doi.org/10.4103/apjon.apjon_15_18
  4. NHS. (2022, May 26). Colposcopy. nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/colposcopy/
  5. NHS. (2023, October 16). Genital warts. nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/genital-warts/