Common warts

It's difficult to prevent HPV infections that cause common warts. If you have a common wart, you can prevent the spread of the infection and formation of new warts by not picking at a wart and not biting your nails.

Plantar warts

You may reduce the risk of contracting HPV infections that cause plantar warts by wearing shoes or sandals in public pools and locker rooms.

Genital warts

You can reduce your risk of developing genital warts and other HPV-related genital lesions by:

  • Being in a mutually monogamous sexual relationship
  • Reducing your number of sex partners
  • Using a latex condom, which may prevent some but not all HPV transmission

HPV vaccines

A vaccine known as Gardasil protects against the strains of HPV that cause most genital warts. Gardasil also protects against the HPV strains most likely to cause cervical cancer. Another vaccine, called Cervarix, protects against cervical cancer but not genital warts.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine HPV vaccination for girls and boys ages 11 and 12. The vaccines are to be administered in three doses over six months. If children are not fully vaccinated at ages 11 and 12, the CDC recommends that girls and women through age 26 and boys and men through age 21 receive the vaccine. However, men may receive the HPV vaccine through age 26 if desired.

The CDC also recommends the vaccine through age 26 for men who have sex with men and for both men and women who are immune compromised if they didn't get the vaccine when younger. However, these vaccines are most effective if given before becoming sexually active.

The vaccines haven't yet been available for 10 years, but early research has already shown declining levels of genital warts. There has also been a reduction in the number of abnormalities found in cervical tissue that indicate an HPV infection.

Researchers are already working on newer vaccines that include more strains of HPV.

Sept. 16, 2014