Symptoms of papillomavirus infection

Consultation médicale

What are the symptoms ?

In most cases, papillomavirus infection is asymptomatic. However, the symptoms that will occur will vary
depending on the type of HPV infection.
Following infection, virus incubation may last between 1 to 8 months, but some individuals have resistance to
the virus and present lesions later. Occasionally, bleeding, irritation or itching may occur.

Papillomavirus infection can be manifested by painless lesions on the skin (condyloma or genital warts), ano-
genital or oral mucosa, in men and women. Condylomas are most often detected with the visualy and the

diagnosis can be confirmed by an HPV test.

Médecin qui examine un patient qui a des symptômes faisant penser au papillomavirus

Condyloma or genital warts

Condyloma are external genital lesions caused, in 90-95% of cases, by HPV types 6 and 11 infections.

The condyloma may appear as:

  • pink or red macules located in the ano-genital mucosa;
  • in the form of grayish or pinkish buds, sometimes placed on a peduncle;
  • multiple papules, isolated or in a layer that may be pinkish or skin color.

Latent or persistent HPV infections

If the presence of the virus in the mucous membranes or in the skin is not accompanied by any symptoms or lesions the infection is inactive or latent. In this case the infection is not contagious and the virus can remain “dormant” for months (or even years) without developing abnormality and without multiplying.

Thanks to the immunity induced following HPV infection, papillomavirus is frequently spontaneously eliminated by the immune system. The “clearance time” indicates the time required for the spontaneous disappearance of HPV which occurs three times out of four.

When the immunity needed to eliminate the virus is not developed, the HPV infection becomes persistent and active. The persistence of HPV in the mucosa causes cellular damage, particularly in the transformation zone of the cervix, which can lead to cervical cancer. The clearance time is directly proportional to the risk of persistent infection and is major in case of infection with papillomavirus types 16 and 18.

Virus HPV au microscope
Femme en consultation médicale

The symptoms of cervical cancer

Cervical cancer symptoms may appear once the cancer has developed and can often be associated with other diseases characterized by the same symptoms as cervical cancer.
Alarming signs that should lead a patient to seek medical attention include: vaginal discharge (pale, watery, pink, brown or bloody, smelly) between menstruation, unusually long and / or heavy menstruations, bleeding after intercourse, painful intercourse
Late symptoms occurring when cervical cancer grows or spreads include: constipation, dysuria, incontinence, hematuria or hematochezia, pain in the pelvic area or lower back, leg edema, anemia, loss of weight, fatigue and loss of appetite.