Couple lying in bed with feet facing away from each other while wondering about symptoms of HPV in males

Understanding HPV for Men: What Are the Symptoms of HPV in Males?

Updated on March 21, 2024. Previously medically reviewed on January 10, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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While there are dozens of known sexually transmitted diseases, human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STI in the world. [1] There are many types of HPV, and nearly everyone will get infected with HPV at some point in their lives, according to the CDC. More specifically, more than 42 million Americans are infected by the disease, and 13 million American teens are infected each year. [1] Considering widespread HPV prevalence, it's important to understand disease control and know how to identify the presence of HPV DNA to guide interventions.

Its more than 30 strains affect people of all genders, infecting 1 in every 3 men over the age of 15 worldwide. [2] Of those men, 1 in 5 are infected with high-risk HPV types. [2]

Thankfully, most HPV cases are harmless and present no real health problems. Still, sometimes you can have HPV without symptoms, so it’s worth knowing what to look for to take care of your sexual health and prevent the virus’ spread. Learn more about the HPV symptoms in men to look for in men. [3]

What is HPV?

Human papillomavirus is a viral infection primarily spread through sexual contact, thus making it a sexually transmitted infection (STI). However, it is not solely an STI; you can potentially contract the virus through casual skin-to-skin contact even without sexual activity. [3, 4]

Estimates suggest that there are more than 300 different types of HPV. They can infect nearly any part of the body, but about 40 types of the virus can specifically affect the mouth, throat, and genitals. This includes the vagina, vulva, cervix, penis, scrotum, anus, and rectum. [3, 4]

In men, the most prevalent HPV type found in those who tested positive was HPV-16, followed by HPV-6. HPV-16 is a high-risk strain that can cause HPV-related cancers of the [5]:

  • Anus – HPV-16 infection is a significant risk factor for anal cancer, particularly among men who have sex with men (MSM) and individuals with weakened immune systems. The virus can infect the cells of the anus, leading to precancerous changes or cancerous growths over time. Anal cancer screening, especially for high-risk populations, can aid in early detection and treatment.
  • Oropharynx – HPV-16 is a leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer, which primarily affects the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and the tonsils. Oral HPV transmission often occurs through oral-genital contact or oral-anal contact. Signs of HPV in men may include persistent sore throat, difficulty swallowing, or a lump in the neck.
  • Penis – In men, HPV-16 infections can lead to penile cancer, though it is relatively rare compared to other HPV-related cancers. The virus can infect penile cells, leading to the development of precancerous lesions or malignant tumors. Symptoms of HPV in males may include changes in skin color, thickness, or texture of the penis. Regular medical check-ups and practicing safe sex are important for preventing penile cancer, especially among uncircumcised individuals.

HPV-6, on the other hand, is low risk, causing HPV warts in the area of infection. [2, 5]

The virus can easily spread when you contact someone who has an HPV infection. You can get a genital HPV infection when your genitals come in contact with someone else’s infected genitals, mouth, or throat. Unlike other sexually transmitted infections, HPV can spread even without penetrative sex, and it can spread even if no one orgasms. [3, 4]

There is currently no known cure for HPV, but it is generally not something to be scared or ashamed of. As common as it is, HPV infections are usually harmless. Most HPV infections go away on their own. [3, 4]

Symptoms of HPV in Men

One of the most difficult parts of HPV is its lack of symptoms. Most cases of HPV do not present any symptoms, which is partly why it spreads so easily from person to person. Many people with HPV don’t even know that they have an infection because of the lack of symptoms. [3, 6]

When HPV presents symptoms, it most often appears in the form of warts. Warts are growths that show up on the surface of the skin or mucous membranes. Their appearance can vary based on where the infection is located and the type of HPV involved [3, 6]:

  • Common warts – These appear as rough, raised bumps that may be easy to mistake for callouses. They most commonly affect the hands and fingers. Some common warts may be painful, sensitive, or prone to bleeding and injury, but most common warts are typically only cosmetic. [3, 6]
  • Plantar warts – Plantar warts show up on the feet, usually at the balls of the feet or on the heels. They appear hard and grainy, and because of their location on the bottoms of the feet, they can pose some discomfort when you walk. [3, 6]
  • Flat warts – Flat warts can appear anywhere, but men and kids typically get flat warts on their faces. They are flat and slightly raised, making them easy to mistake for zits and other face blemishes. [3, 6]

Along with these types of warts, HPV can also cause genital warts. Most genital warts are caused by HPV types 6 and 11. These appear soft and fleshy, and they can sometimes look like cauliflower. [3, 6]

Genital warts are typically painless, though they might feel tender or itchy. These warts can appear in the genital area on the penis or scrotum or around the anus. [3, 6]

High-Risk HPV in Men

As unsightly or uncomfortable as warts can be, they are harmless. Therefore types of HPV that cause warts are categorized as “low-risk” HPV. [3, 6]

However, human papillomavirus can be a serious issue among all genders in its “high-risk” forms and can present high-risk factors. High-risk HPV increases the risk of certain forms of cancer. This is a significant problem among women and people with cervixes. Most cases of cervical cancer are linked to HPV. [7]

Among men, HPV can still potentially increase the risk of other forms of HPV-related cancer, as discussed. Like low-risk HPV, high-risk HPV does not present any noticeable symptoms until it has progressed to more severe stages, at which point it has created more serious health issues. [7]

Pap tests and HPV tests exist for women and people with cervixes, along with at-home testing kits, like the Everlywell HPV Test. These tests allow healthcare providers to detect high-risk HPV strains or abnormal cells in the cervix. However, there are no tests to identify high-risk HPV in the penis, anus, throat, or vulva. [3, 6]

The good news: not all cases of high-risk HPV lead to cancer. Many people with high-risk HPV recover without any health issues. Health experts still don’t know exactly why some people develop cancer or other long-term issues, but existing immune problems and a history of tobacco use may increase the likelihood of HPV becoming more of a problem. [3, 6]

Treating and Preventing HPV in Men

Most cases of HPV will resolve on their own without any outside influence. There is otherwise no known cure for HPV in any gender. For warts, your healthcare provider may recommend a variety of topical medications, and for more severe cases, warts may be removed via surgery. [8]

The best way to prevent HPV is to get the HPV vaccine. This vaccine, also known as Gardasil, effectively protects against high-risk HPV, as well as types of HPV that commonly cause genital warts. The vaccine can be administered to everyone between the ages of 9 and 45. Children are recommended to get the vaccine around age 11 or 12. For kids aged 9 to 14, the vaccine is administered in two doses, while anyone older requires three doses of the vaccine. [9]

Besides HPV vaccination, practicing safer sex can also reduce the risk of transmitting or contracting HPV. This includes using a condom whenever you have penetrative sex or a dental dam when you have oral sex. These generally aren’t as effective at preventing HPV as other STDs because of the nature of HPV (it can spread from skin contact and without the need for orgasm), but it’s still a good step to take. [9]

Going off symptoms alone can be difficult when sometimes an HPV infection doesn’t present many symptoms. If you are sexually active, consider regular wellness exams, and consult your healthcare provider if you notice genital warts or other symptoms.

The Benefits of Virtual Health Assessment For Men

For men, seeking HPV treatment and assessment online through virtual appointments can be a practical and efficient way to address any concerns. During virtual appointments, healthcare providers may inquire about symptoms such as genital warts, changes in the skin, or any discomfort in the genital area. They may also discuss risk factors such as unprotected sex, multiple sexual partners, or a weakened immune system.

Virtual appointments offer several advantages for men seeking general health advice:

  • Accessibility – Virtual healthcare allows individuals to consult with healthcare providers from the comfort and privacy of their own homes. This is particularly beneficial for men who may feel embarrassed or uncomfortable discussing sensitive topics such as STIs in person. By eliminating the need for physical visits to a clinic, virtual care appointments remove barriers to seeking timely medical advice.
  • Time and money – When seeking virtual care, it’s no longer necessary to factor in travel time or expenses associated with visiting a healthcare facility. This convenience encourages more individuals to seek medical help promptly, reducing the risk of HPV-related complications and HPV transmission to others.
  • Open communication – Men can openly discuss their symptoms, sexual history, and any concerns they may have about HPV without fear of judgment. Healthcare professionals, in turn, can provide accurate information, personalized advice, and appropriate treatment options based on individual needs.

Exceptional Men’s Care From Everlywell

HPV is an exceptionally common STD. If you’ve been exposed to the disease or are exhibiting symptoms, visit with a healthcare provider.

At Everlywell, we offer Men’s Health Care Visits through our telehealth portal. You can meet one-on-one with a licensed healthcare provider to discuss your concerns and next steps.

Book an appointment today.

  1. HPV Infection. CDC. Medical Citation URL. Accessed March 21, 2024.
  2. One in three men worldwide are infected with genital human papillomavirus. WHO. Medical Citation URL. Accessed March 21, 2024.
  3. HPV (Human Papilloma Virus). Cleveland Clinic. Medical Citation URL. Accessed March 21, 2024.
  4. Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Planned Parenthood. Medical Citation URL. Accessed March 21, 2024.
  5. HPV and Cancer. NIH. Medical Citation URL. Accessed March 21, 2024.
  6. Planned Parenthood. Medical Citation URL. Accessed March 21, 2024.
  7. HPV infection: symptoms, causes. Mayo Clinic. Medical Citation URL. Accessed March 21, 2024.
  8. HPV infection: diagnosis, treatment. Mayo Clinic. Medical Citation URL. Accessed March 21, 2024.
  9. Should I get the HPV vaccine? Planned Parenthood. Medical Citation URL. Accessed March 21, 2024.
  10. How can I make sure I don’t get or spread HPV? Planned Parenthood. Medical Citation URL. Accessed March 21, 2024.

Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT is most fulfilled when guiding others towards making stepwise, sustainable changes that add up to big results over time. Jordan works with a wide variety of individuals, ranging in age from children to the elderly, with an assortment of concerns and clinical conditions, and has written for publications such as Innerbody. She helps individuals optimize overall health and/or manage disease states using personalized medical nutrition therapy techniques.
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