What are Genital Warts?

There are certain HPV strains that develop warts around or in the anus, on the vulva, on the vagina, on the penis, scrotum, groin or on the thigh. Those that have warts, they can appear from weeks to months after being exposed. They can even become exposed after years.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Genital Warts in Men and Women?

White or flesh-colored, pink tinted warts which start as small groups of bumps or a small bump. These warts may be different sizes, flat, or cauliflower shaped.

Symptoms make take upto a month or longer to appear after infection.

How are Genital Warts (HPV) diagnosed?

  • Vinegar solution poured on the skin to find flat warts. This test can often show normal skin as being a wart. Just by looking at them. Some healthcare providers will just look at them and tell you.
  • Biopsy. These are often done if the wart removed and then put under a microscope for examination.

Transmission

Genital warts are most commonly transmitted through sex:

  • Anal Sex
  • Oral Sex
  • Vaginal Sex

There is also the possibility of transmission through close skin on skin contact (usually also related to sex).

What Are the Complications and Risks of Genital Warts?

The majority of complications from genital warts themselves occur in pregnant women. Warts may become larger during pregnancy. This can lead to difficulty urinating or delivering the baby. Additionally, the warts may be passed to the infant. If warts form in the baby's throat it can be life threatening as they can inhibit the ability to breathe.

Partners and Re-infection

Partners can be infected by both intercourse and skin-to-skin contact. When you are asymptomatic, consistent proper use of latex condoms is the best method of protecting your partner from contracting HPV.

How Are Genital Warts (HPV) Treated?

There isn’t a cure for HPV, but genital warts will not go away on their own. They can be removed by your doctor.

These treatments can be done at your doctor’s office

  • Excision: The wart is cut out.
  • Electrocautery: The wart is burned off using electricity.
  • Laser Therapy: Intense lights destroy the warts.
  • Trichloracetic Acid or TCA: This chemical is applied to the wart.
  • Cryotherapy: Warts are frozen off using liquid nitrogen.

There are some treatments that may be done using a prescription cream at home. These creams are Condylox (podophyllotoxin or podofilox), Veregen (green tea extracts or sinechatechins, Beseline or Aldara (imiquiod). Beselna and ALdara can cause issues in the immune system, so talk to your doctor about what treatment will be the best for you if you are HIV positive.

You should never use OTC (over the counter) removal products in order to treat various forms of warts caused by HPV.

Warts can also come back after a successful treatment. If you do not treat genital warts, they could go away, but they can also stay the same in size or they can get bigger. Some people decide not to go for treatment immediately, just to see if the warts will go away on their own. When you consider treatment options, you may want to talk to your doctor and take into account where the wart is, how big it is, and how many there are as well as if it has changed. Think about the side effects of the treatment and what you prefer.

A lot of women who have HIV with lowered CD4 cell counts, may have trouble getting rid of the warts with standard treatment. There are other treatments that you may need. For women who have HIV, one of the best ways is to get rid of the warts and make your immune system stronger is to take your HIV medications. If you are already taking them, then it is important that you take them how you are supposed to so that they will be able to raise the cell count of your CD4, and help your body fight HPV.

Recovery Time

Recovery time from an outbreak of genital warts varies by the size and location of the warts as well as the treatment method used. For example:

  • Freezing: takes about 1-3 weeks
  • Laser: removal takes about 2-4 weeks
  • Physical surgery: takes about 2-4 weeks

Sexual Activity

When warts are visible, all sexual activity should be avoided to prevent passing the disease in that manner.

Recurrence

Recurrences of genital warts are common and are seen most often in the three months directly following treatment. Between 20% and 50% of people will see recurrence of warts. However, as a patient goes longer without having a recurrence, their likelihood of developing warts again decreases.

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Quick Snapshot

Can it be cured?

No. Viruses don't have cures, but symptoms can be controlled with proper treatment.

Type of Infection

Viral. Genital warts are caused by certain strains of HPV, the human papillomavirus.

How is it treated?

Medicine or Surgery. There are a variety of treatment options including medications and surgery (freezing, burning, laser and physical removal).

Recovery Time

1 to 4 weeks. Recovery varies by type of treatment as well as size and location of the outbreak. Anywhere from 1-4 weeks should be expected.

Can I have sex?

No. Until the warts are gone, sexual activity should be avoided.

Can I get re-infected?

Yes. As the base cause of genital warts is an incurable virus, you can have recurrence of genital warts without a new infection.

Do I Have Genital Warts?

Find out whether or not you have Genital Warts and what STD test is recommended using our symptom checker. Get your personalized results and recommendations!

Genital Warts (HPV) Symptom Checker