Cervical Dysplasia



Cervical dysplasia is most often caused by a sexually transmitted virus called human papillomavirus (HPV).

There are different types of HPV. The risk of cervical disease will differ based on the type of HPV.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of cervical dysplasia are:

  • Having multiple sexual partners
  • Early onset of sexual activity (before age 18)
  • Having children at an early age (before age 16)
  • Smoking
  • Sexually transmitted infections including genital herpes or HIV
  • Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) as a fetus—a substance given to prevent miscarriages in high-risk pregnancies



There are often no symptoms with cervical dysplasia. Cervical changes are most often found in screening tests.


Cervical dysplasia is often found as part of regular screening. A sample of cervix cells are taken for testing. This is done with a pap test.

A colposcopy and biopsy may be done after an abnormal Pap test. A small sample of abnormal cells will be removed and tested at a lab. It will help to get more information on cell changes.

Testing for HPV may also be done since it is a common cause of cervical dysplasia.



Some dysplasia will not need treatment and will go away on its own. The doctor will monitor for any changes.

In others, the goal of treatment is to destroy or remove abnormal cells. How this is done depends on how much of the cervix is affected. Options are:

  • Cryosurgery—abnormal tissue is destroyed with cold to treat smaller areas of dysplasia
  • Laser Treatment—a high energy beam of light is used to destroy abnormal cells
  • Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP)—a wire loop is used to remove abnormal tissue
  • Cone biopsy—a cone-shaped area of tissue is taken to remove abnormal cells


The risk of cervical dysplasia may be lowered by:

  • Practicing safe sex to lower the risk of HPV infection.
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Getting the HPV vaccine

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.