The human papillomavirus is typically diagnosed during a routine pelvic exam using a technique similar to the technique used in a Pap test. A small sample of cells is removed from the walls of the vagina and the cervix and evaluated under a microscope to look for the virus.
Sometimes, an HPV infection is diagnosed after Pap test yields abnormal results. (In fact, it is a leading cause of abnormal Pap test results.) A diagnostic exam called a colposcopy uses a special solution and a magnifying lens to highlight and view abnormal areas of the vaginal canal and cervix so small tissue samples can be taken for additional evaluation.