Diagnostic Tests for Human Papillomavirus


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Diagnostic Test list for Human Papillomavirus: The list of diagnostic tests mentioned in various sources as used in the diagnosis of Human Papillomavirus includes:

  • Genital examination
  • Vinegar used in genital examination - vinegar can make warts more visible.
  • Pap smear

Tests and diagnosis discussion for Human Papillomavirus: Most women are diagnosed with HPV on the basis of abnormal Pap smears. Pap smears are the primary screening tool for cervical cancer or pre-cancerous conditions, many of which are cell changes related to HPV. Current HPV tests are fairly sophisticated and expensive and are commercially available for women with an abnormal Pap smear.  They cannot identify which HPV infections will lead to cervical cancer or pre-cancerous conditions. Research is underway to determine the role of HPV tests for cervical cancer screening. 1

A doctor or other health care worker usually can diagnose genital warts by seeing them on a patient. Women with genital warts also should be examined for possible HPV infection of the cervix.

The doctor may be able to identify some otherwise invisible warts in the genital tissue by applying vinegar (acetic acid) to areas of suspected infection. This solution causes infected areas to whiten, which makes them more visible, particularly if a procedure called colposcopy is performed. During colposcopy, the doctor uses a magnifying instrument to look at the vagina and cervix. In some cases, the doctor takes a small piece of tissue from the cervix and examines it under the microscope.

A Pap smear test also may indicate the possible presence of cervical HPV infection. In a Pap smear, a laboratory worker examines cells scraped from the cervix under a microscope to see if they are cancerous. If a woman’s Pap smear is abnormal, she might have an HPV infection. If a woman has an abnormal Pap smear, she should have her doctor examine her further to look for and treat any cervical problems. 2

Footnotes:
1. excerpt from HPV: DSTD
2. excerpt from Human Papillomavirus and Genital Warts, NIAID Fact Sheet: NIAID

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