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How to cure genital warts in men

Genital warts are a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) passed on by vaginal and anal sex, sharing sex toys and, rarely, by oral sex. Treatment from a sexual health clinic can help.

Non-urgent advice: Go to a sexual health clinic if you have:

  • 1 or more painless growths or lumps around your vagina, penis or anus
  • itching or bleeding from your genitals or anus
  • a change to your normal flow of pee (for example, it’s begun to flow sideways) that does not go away
  • a sexual partner who has genital warts, even if you do not have symptoms

These symptoms mean you may have genital warts. Go to a sexual health clinic to be checked.

Sexual health clinics are sometimes called genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics, or sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services.

Treatment can help remove the warts and stop the infection being passed on.

Why you should go to a sexual health clinic

You can see a GP, but they’ll probably refer you to a sexual health clinic if they think you might have genital warts.

Sexual health clinics specialise in treating problems with the genitals and urine system.

Many sexual health clinics offer a walk-in service where you do not need an appointment.

A sexual health clinic will often get test results quicker than a GP surgery, and you do not have to pay a prescription charge for medicines prescribed by a sexual health clinic.

What happens at a sexual health clinic

A doctor or nurse can usually diagnose warts by looking at them.

  • ask you about your symptoms and sexual partners
  • look at the bumps around your genitals and anus, maybe using a magnifying lens
  • possibly need to look inside your vagina, anus or urethra (where pee comes out), depending on where the warts are

It may not be possible to find out who you got genital warts from, or how long you’ve had the infection.

Treatment for genital warts

Treatment for genital warts needs to be prescribed by a doctor.

The type of treatment you’ll be offered depends on what the warts look like and where they are. The doctor or nurse will discuss this with you.

  • cream or liquid: you can usually apply this to the warts yourself a few times a week for several weeks, but in some cases you may need to go to a sexual health clinic where a doctor or nurse will apply it. These treatments can cause pain, irritation or a burning sensation.
  • surgery: a doctor or nurse may cut, burn or use a laser to remove the warts. This can cause pain, irritation or scarring.
  • freezing: a doctor or nurse freezes the warts. Sometimes the treatment is repeated several times. This can cause pain.

It may take weeks or months for treatment to work and the warts may come back. In some people, the treatment does not work.

There’s no cure for genital warts, but it’s possible for your body to fight the virus over time.

tell the doctor or nurse if you’re pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, as some treatments will not be suitable for you

avoid perfumed soap, shower gel or bath products during treatment because these can irritate your skin

ask the doctor or nurse if your treatment will affect condoms, diaphragms or caps

do not use wart treatment from a pharmacy; these are not made for genital warts

do not smoke; many treatments for genital warts work better if you do not smoke

do not have vaginal, anal or oral sex until the warts have gone; but if you do have sex, always use a condom

How genital warts are passed on

The genital warts virus can be passed on even when there are no visible warts.

Many people with the virus do not have symptoms but can still pass it on.

If you have genital warts, your current sexual partners should get tested because they may have warts and not know it.

After you get the infection, it can take weeks to many months before symptoms appear.

You can get genital warts from:

  • skin-to-skin contact, including vaginal and anal sex
  • sharing sex toys
  • oral sex, but this is rare

The virus can also be passed to a baby from its mother during birth, but this is rare.

You cannot get genital warts from:

  • kissing
  • sharing things like towels, cutlery, cups or toilet seats

How to stop genital warts being passed on

You can stop genital warts from being passed on by:

  • using a condom every time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex – but if the virus is in any in skin that’s not protected by a condom, it can still be passed on
  • not having sex while you’re having treatment for genital warts
  • not sharing sex toys; if you do share them, wash them or cover them with a new condom before anyone else uses them

Why genital warts come back

Genital warts are caused by a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). There are many types of HPV.

The HPV virus can stay in your skin and warts can develop again.

Warts may go away without treatment, but this may take many months. You can still pass the virus on, and the warts may come back.

Genital warts and cancer

Genital warts are not cancer and do not cause cancer.

The HPV vaccine that’s offered to girls and boys aged 12 to 13 in England protects against cervical cancer and genital warts.

The HPV vaccine is also offered to men (up to the age of 45) who have sex with men (MSM), some trans men and trans women, sex workers, and men and women living with HIV.

Genital warts and pregnancy

Important

Tell your midwife or doctor if:

  • you’re pregnant, or think you’re pregnant, and you have genital warts or think you have genital warts

During pregnancy, genital warts:

  • can grow and multiply
  • might appear for the first time, or come back after a long time of not being there
  • can be treated safely, but some treatments should be avoided
  • may be removed if they’re very big, to avoid problems during birth
  • may be passed to the baby during birth, but this is rare; the HPV virus can cause infection in the baby’s throat or genitals

Most pregnant women with genital warts have a vaginal delivery. Very rarely you might be offered a caesarean, depending on your circumstances.

Page last reviewed: 24 August 2020
Next review due: 24 August 2023

Articles On HPV/Genital Warts

  • Overview
  • Symptoms & Tests
  • Treatment
  • Vaccines
  • HPV & Cervical Cancer
  • HPV in Men

Much of the information about HPV virus (human papillomavirus) centers on women, since having the virus increases their risk of getting cervical cancer. But HPV virus in men can cause health problems, too. It’s important for men to understand how to reduce the risks of HPV infection.

HPV infection can increase a man’s risk of getting genital cancers, although these cancers are not common. HPV can also cause genital warts in men, just as in women.

More than half of men who are sexually active in the U.S. will have HPV at some time in their life. Often, men will clear the virus on their own, with no health problems.

Risks of HPV Infection in Men

Some of the types of HPV associated with genital cancers can lead to cancer of the anus or penis in men. Both of these cancer types are rare, especially in men with a healthy immune system. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that in 2022, about 2,070 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer of the penis and 3,150В men will be diagnosedВ withВ anal cancer.

The risk of anal cancer is about 17 times higher in sexually active gay and bisexual men than in men who have sex only with women. Men who have HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) are also at higher risk of getting this cancer.

Most cancers that are found in the back of the throat, including at the base of the tongue and in the tonsils, are HPV related. In fact, these are the most common HPV-related cancers found in men.В More than 13,000 new cases are diagnosed in men each year.В

Other types of HPV virus rarely cause cancer in men, but they do cause genital warts. At any given point in time, about 1% of sexually active men in the U.S. will have genital warts.

The Symptoms of HPV in Men

The types of high-risk HPV that can cause cancer rarely present any symptoms in men or in women. Genital warts are the first symptom you may see with low-risk HPV strains that cause warts but not cancer.

Tests for HPV Infection in Men

To diagnose genital warts in men, the doctor will visually check a man’s genital area to see if warts are present. Some doctors will apply a vinegar solution to help identify warts that aren’t raised and visible. But the test is not foolproof. Sometimes normal skin is mistakenly identified as a wart.

There is no routine test for men to check for high-risk HPV strains that can cause cancer. However, some doctors are urging anal Pap tests for gay and bisexual men, who are at higher risk of anal cancer caused by HPV. In an anal Pap test, the doctor collects cells from the anus, and then has them checked for abnormalities in a lab.

Treatments for HPV Infection in Men

There is no treatment for HPV infection in men when no symptoms are present. Instead, doctors treat the health problems that are caused by the HPV virus.

When genital warts appear, a variety of treatments can be used. The patient can apply prescription creams at home. Or a doctor can surgically remove or freeze off the warts.

Early treatment of warts is discouraged by some doctors because genital warts can go away on their own. It can also take time for all warts to appear. So a person who treats warts as soon as they appear may need another treatment later on.

Anal cancer can be treated with radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery. The specific treatments depend on the stage of cancer — how big the tumor is and how far the cancer has spread.

HPV Vaccine for Men?

In the U.S. Gardasil 9 is available to prevent HPV infection, cervical, and anal cancer. It can be given to men and women as young as age 9 through age 45.
В

How to Manage HPV in a Relationship

If a man’s long-term sexual partner has HPV, chances are good HPV transmission has already occurred and they also have it. HPV in men may clear from the body more easily than in women. Women, in general, often clear the virus in two years or less.

The HPV types associated with cervical cancer usually do not cause health problems for a heterosexual man having sex with an HPV-infected woman.

If a partner has HPV, it does not necessarily mean they have had sex with someone else recently. The virus can lay dormant in the body for years without causing noticeable symptoms.

How to Prevent Spreading HPV

Abstinence is the only sure way to prevent HPV transmission. Risk of transmission can be lowered if a person has sex only with one person who is not infected and who is also monogamous.

To lower the risk of HPV transmission, men can also limit the number of sex partners and pick partners who have had few or no partners in the past.

Condoms can provide some protection against HPV transmission. Unfortunately, they aren’t 100% effective, since HPV is transmitted primarily by skin-to-skin contact. The virus can still infect the skin uncovered by the condom.

In a recent study of young women who had just become sexually active, those whose partners used a condom each time they had sex were 70% less likely to get an HPV infection than were women whose partners used a condom less than 5% of the time.

Treatment of HPV

Genital Warts Treatment

Management of Abnormal Cervical Smears

Treatment for Genital Warts

Genital warts may be new, recurrent or have been present for many years.

Treatment for genital warts is optional. Even though there are many good treatments for genital warts, most genital wart infections will clear up spontaneously sooner or later. However, many people want to have them treated as the warts can be unsightly and/or uncomfortable.

The goal of treatment should be to remove visible genital warts and relieve annoying symptoms.

There are several available treatments, and no one treatment is ideal for all people or all warts.

Factors that might influence the choice of treatment include size, location and number of warts, changes in the warts, patient preference, the cost of treatment, convenience, possible adverse effects and the health care provider’s expertise.

All treatment options involve some drawbacks, such as pain, possible scarring, and expense. Additionally, some of the warts which were cleared initially may, in some people, have recurrences which means going back for further treatment.

If there is no significant response to the HPV treatment within 4–6 weeks, an alternative diagnosis, change of treatment modality, or onward referral should be considered.

Whatever the treatment option is, here are some important points to remember:

  • It is advisable to seek medical advice before starting treatment for genital warts.
  • Ask the doctor for an explanation of the treatment, including the costs and likely benefits as well as any side effects.
  • Be sure to understand the follow-up instructions, such as what to do about discomfort and when to seek help.
  • Be patient – treatment often takes several visits and a variety of approaches.
  • If pregnant, tell the doctor so they can choose the right treatment.
  • Don’t use over-the-counter treatments which are not specifically for genital warts (for example remedies for warts on the feet or hands). These are not meant for sensitive genital skin and can do more damage to your skin.
  • It is recommended to avoid sexual contact with the infected area during treatment, to protect the treated area of skin from friction and help it heal.
  • Salt water baths help soothe and heal the genital area during treatment. Two handfuls of plain salt per bath or two tablespoons in a large bowl, preferably twice daily.
  • Xylocaine (2% lignocaine gel) is a useful local anaesthetic to put on raw areas two minutes prior to passing urine or having a bowel motion.
  • Thrush (yeast) infection is common, especially when the genital area is raw, and it is often helpful to treat the thrush at the same time as the warts are being treated.

Options for removing genital warts

Remember that not all of these treatment options may be available, and a treatment plan needs to be discussed with the doctor or health care specialist.

Whatever the choice, remember that weekly treatments are usually needed, and it may be some time before the warts clear. No treatment at present can guarantee that warts are gone forever. Also keep in mind that warts would usually go away over time without treatment.

  • Podophyllotoxin (Condyline™) solution is a patient-applied treatment for external genital warts, recommended for external penile skin only as it can irritate if applied to skin folds such as under the foreskin on the penis or vulval skin (the area around the vaginal opening). It is contraindicated in pregnancy.
  • Imiquimod (Aldara™) cream is a patient-applied treatment for external genital and perianal warts. It is easy to use and safe if instructions are followed. If other treatments are unsuitable, Aldara is available by fully subsidised prescription from your doctor. Not recommended in pregnancy.
  • Cryotherapy (freezing off the wart with liquid nitrogen) can be done by a trained health practitioner.
  • Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) is a chemical applied to the surface of the wart by a trained health practitioner. It is unavailable in some DHBs.
  • Laser therapy (using an intense light to destroy the warts) or surgery (cutting off the warts) has the advantage of getting rid of the warts in a single visit. Laser treatment can be expensive and the health care provider must be well trained in these methods. It is only available in a few centres. Recurrences may occur.

Follow-up after treatment

After visible genital warts have cleared, a follow-up evaluation is not necessary.

Recurrences (a return of the warts) occur most frequently during the first 3 months. A follow-up evaluation 3 months after treatment may be useful for reassurance that there are no persistent or new warts. Regular cervical screening is recommended for everyone with a cervix, regardless of whether they have genital warts or not.

Anyone with genital warts should discuss with their doctor the possibility of other sexually transmitted infections being present, and take the opportunity to have a full sexual health check.

Genital warts pamphlet

Some Questions and Answers about HPV and Genital Warts

Genital warts may go away on their own, but sometimes they stick around, get larger or grow in number. Talk with a nurse or doctor about treatment options to have them removed.

Want to get tested for genital warts?

Should I get treatment for genital warts?

That’s totally up to you to decide with your nurse or doctor. Your body’s immune system may fight off the virus that causes genital warts, and they’ll go away without any further treatment. But they may not, and can be uncomfortable and be passed to other people. If you’re pregnant, your doctor or nurse may want to remove the warts so they don’t cause problems during a vaginal delivery. Getting treatment also lowers your chances of passing warts on to anyone you have sex with.

What’s the treatment for genital warts?

There are several different ways to treat genital warts, depending on where the warts are and how much of your skin they cover. Like all medicines and procedures, these treatments can have different side effects, costs, and benefits. Talk with your doctor or nurse to decide which genital warts treatment option is best for you.

Your doctor or nurse can:

Put chemicals on the warts to make them go away or stop growing. Usually you get this done once a week for a few weeks at a clinic.

Give you a prescription for a cream that you put on the warts yourself for several weeks.

Freeze the warts off (cryotherapy).

Burn off the warts using an electric current.

Remove the warts with a knife or wire and electricity (LEEP).

Some of these treatments might sound kind of scary, but they all work by removing the warts, which removes any symptoms and lowers your chances of passing the HPV infection that caused them to anyone else. Your doctor or nurse can give you a numbing medicine to make you more comfortable.

By the way, over-the-counter wart medicines to treat warts that are on your hands or feet should NOT be used to treat genital warts.

Although there’s no cure for the types of HPV that cause genital warts, there is a vaccine that can prevent most kinds of genital warts and certain types of cancer.

What can I do after treatment to make sure I don’t get anymore warts?

Genital warts can be treated, but they can’t be cured. You’re removing the warts, but you’ll still have the HPV that causes them. The HPV may go away at some point on its own, but there’s no way to know for sure. Some people will get warts again and others won’t.

After you get your warts removed:

Keep the area clean and don’t scratch it.

Wash your hands after touching the area where the warts were.

Don’t have sex if it’s uncomfortable.

A cold pack may make you feel better if the area hurts or is swollen. You can also take over-the-counter pain medicine to help.

What do I do if my genital warts come back after treatment?

If your genital warts come back after treatment, you can talk with your nurse or doctor about treatment options to have them removed again. There are several different ways to treat genital warts, and your nurse or doctor may suggest a different method this time.

Help us improve – how could this information be more helpful?

Genital warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). They are a very common STI in the United Kingdom, and while there is no cure for HPV; the symptoms themselves can be treated and managed very effectively with a variety of different genital warts treatments.

Testing and diagnosing genital warts

In general, genital warts can be easily diagnosed by inspection. This means that they will normally be examined by a medical professional who may use a magnifying lens to be sure of their diagnosis. For women, if the inside of the vagina is to be examined, then a speculum will be used to allow appropriate observation of the cervix and inside the vagina.

Warts do not cause pain unless they become irritated by friction or trauma. While many STIs can be identified by symptoms of discomfort, on the whole, warts are diagnosed simply through observation.

You can use out Online Photo Assessment service if you think you might have genital warts. One of our clinicians will review the photos you upload in our secure assessment, and might offer/suggest treatment if they think you have got warts.

Genital warts treatment

If one of our clinicians suggests treatment for your genital warts, the method of is likely to be dependent on the severity of the infection. Genital warts treatments and removal with vary based on the size, volume and texture of the warts.

We have two treatments for genital warts available from our online doctor service:

  • Warticon (podophyllotoxin) is used to treat small fleshy warts. It physically burns off the wart. The warts take around one month to disappear (sometimes longer) but do often return.
  • Aldara (imiquimod) is a genital warts treatment cream that works best on larger warts. It works by assisting your body’s immune system in fighting the warts, as well as HPV itself. It may take several weeks or months before the treatment is complete. Warts treated with Aldara are less likely to recur.

Alternative treatments

In more severe cases, you may want to consider genital wart removal. You can physically remove the warts with:

  • Cryotherapy: This involves freezing the warts with liquid nitrogen or dry ice. This causes the outer membranes of the wart(s) to split, killing the cells of the growth. It can take up to three weeks for the skin to heal after cryotherapy and it’s a good idea to abstain from sex until it’s fully healed.
  • Excision: The wart is essentially cut off with a scalpel whilst under local anaesthetic. The wound will then be stitched afterwards. Excision is normally used on smaller or larger warts that have become hard to the touch, to avoid scarring.
  • Electrosurgery: This is an option for large warts that have not responded to medicinal genital warts treatment. A metal loop is run round the wart and a current is passed through it which burns away the wart. As the treatment can be painful, it is normal for a regional anaesthetic to be given to numb your whole body below the waist or even a general anaesthetic.
  • Laser surgery: This is used to treat larger warts that may be difficult to access with other methods. For example, those that are deep inside the anus or urethra. It may also be used for pregnant women who have failed to respond to medicinal treatments. In this instance the warts are literally burned away with a laser. Depending on the severity of the surgery it may require either a local or general anaesthetic.

As with all forms of wart treatment, you should not have sexual intercourse until you are fully healed. This may take up to four weeks after excision or laser surgery.

Unfortunately, none of the physical treatments for warts eradicate HPV which is the underlying cause of warts, so there is always a chance of recurrence.

Are you sure you have genital warts?

We’ve noticed that some of our patients are confused about different STIs. Warts are small firm or fleshy nodules that slowly grow or spread. They usually do not cause any pain or itching and often go unnoticed for weeks or months. Skin tags are small extra bits of skin that can feel like warts to some people. If you’re not sure, then you need to see a doctor or send us a photo via our GP Photo Upload Service.

What are Genital Warts?

Genital warts are common and are caused by certain types of HPV. Genital warts can be annoying, but they’re treatable and aren’t dangerous.

Want to get tested for genital warts?

Genital warts are caused by HPV

Genital warts show up on the skin around your genitals and anus. They’re caused by certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV). You might’ve heard that some types of HPV can cause cancer, but they’re NOT the same kinds that give you genital warts.

HPV can be a tricky STD to understand. It’s the most common STD, but most of the time it goes away on its own. Sometimes certain types of “high-risk” HPV can develop into cancer if left untreated. Other “low-risk” types of HPV can cause warts on your vulva, vagina, cervix, rectum, anus, penis or scrotum. Genital warts are common — about 360,000 people get them each year.

How do you get genital warts?

You get genital warts from having skin-to-skin contact with someone who’s infected, often during vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Genital warts can be spread even if no one cums, and a penis doesn’t have to go inside a vagina or anus to get them. You can spread them even when you don’t have any visible warts or other symptoms, though that’s less common. You can also pass genital warts to a baby during vaginal childbirth, but that’s pretty rare.

Genital warts are different from warts you might get elsewhere on your body. So you can’t get genital warts by touching yourself (or a partner) with a wart that’s on your hand or foot.

You’re more likely to pass genital warts when you’re having symptoms. So if you notice a wart, it’s best to get tested and treated to help lower the risk of passing genital warts on to a partner.

Help us improve – how could this information be more helpful?

What Are Genital Warts?

Genital warts are warts that are on or near the vagina or penis (the genitals).

What Causes Genital Warts?

Genital warts are usually a sexually transmitted disease (STD). They’re caused by HPV (human papillomavirus). This also can cause some types of cancer. But the types of HPV that cause genital warts do not usually cause cancer.

What Are STDs?

STDs (also called sexually transmitted infections or STIs) are infections that spread through sex (vaginal, oral, or anal), or close sexual contact.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Genital Warts?

Many people infected with HPV never get warts. If warts do develop, they usually come within a few months. But sometimes, they show up years later.

The warts can be on or near the vulva, vagina, cervix, penis, scrotum, or anus.

Genital warts can be raised or flat, small or large. Sometimes they’re grouped together in a cauliflower-like shape. Some warts can be so small and flat that they’re not noticed right away.

Most of the time, genital warts are painless. Some people may have itching, bleeding, burning, or pain.

How Do People Get Genital Warts?

The HPV that causes genital warts usually spreads through vaginal, oral, or anal sex or close sexual contact with the genital area. Even if there are no warts, HPV might still be active in the genital area and can spread to others.

It is not always possible for people to know when they got infected with HPV. This is because:

  • The virus can be in the body for months to years before warts develop.
  • They might have had warts before that weren’t noticed.

How Are Genital Warts Diagnosed?

Health care providers usually can diagnose genital warts by looking at them. Sometimes, doctors take a small sample of the wart to send to a lab for testing. This usually isn’t painful.

How Are Genital Warts Treated?

Treatments to remove genital warts include:

  • medicines put on or into the warts
  • lasers, cold, or heat put on the warts
  • surgery

Sometimes, warts come back after treatment. This is because the treatments can’t get rid of all of the HPV in the body.

How Long Do Genital Warts Last?

How long genital warts last can vary from person to person. Sometimes, the immune system clears the warts within a few months. But even if the warts go away, the HPV might still be active in the body. So the warts can come back. Usually within 2 years, the warts and the HPV are gone from the body.

When Is Someone With Genital Warts No Longer Contagious?

People with genital warts definitely can spread HPV. But even after the warts are gone, HPV might still be active in the body. That means it can spread to someone else through sex or close sexual contact and cause warts in that person. It’s hard to know when people are no longer contagious, because there’s no blood test that looks for HPV.

Most of the time, HPV is gone within 2 years of when someone was infected.

Can Genital Warts Be Prevented?

Genital warts and other types of HPV can be prevented by a vaccine. The HPV vaccine series is recommended for all kids when they’re 9–11 years old. Teens and adults (up to age 45) also can get the vaccine. Even if someone already has had one type of HPV infection, the HPV vaccine can protect against other types of HPV.

HPV almost always spreads through sex. So another way to prevent genital warts is to not have sex (vaginal, oral, or anal). If someone does decide to have sex, using a condom every time for sex (vaginal, oral, anal) helps prevent HPV and other STDs. But condoms can’t always prevent HPV because they don’t cover all areas where HPV can live.

Should Sexual Partners Be Told About Genital Warts?

Yes. Someone diagnosed with genital warts should have an honest conversation with sexual partners. Partners need to be seen by a health care provider who can check for genital warts and do screenings for other STDs.

If the couple plan to continue having sex, both people need to understand that a condom will help lower the risk of spreading genital warts/HPV but can’t completely prevent it.

Looking Ahead

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with genital warts, it is important to:

  • Know that HPV can spread to partners during sex, even if there are no warts.
  • Tell any sexual partners about the warts before having sex.
  • Use a condom every time they have sex (vaginal, oral, or anal).
  • Get tested for other STDs as recommended by your health care provider.
  • Get all doses of the HPV vaccine.

Condition Basics

What are genital warts?

Genital warts are skin growths in the groin, genital, or anal areas. They can be different sizes and shapes. Some look like flat white patches, and others are bumpy, like tiny bunches of cauliflower. Sometimes you can’t see the warts at all.

What causes them?

Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Over 100 types of HPV have been found. Some types cause genital warts. Types 6 and 11 cause most genital warts.

HPV and genital warts can be spread through sex or skin-to-skin genital contact with someone who has the virus. The virus can be spread to or from the genitals, anus, mouth, or throat during sexual activities. You can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

Genital warts can be different sizes and shapes. They may be large, or they may be too small to be seen. They may appear alone or in groups. Warts may look like tiny bunches of cauliflower or like flat, white areas that are very hard to see.

Visible warts appear only during active infection.

Genital warts may appear in the groin, on and around the genitals, in the urethra, or in the rectum or anus.

How are they diagnosed?

A doctor checks for genital warts by looking closely at the genital and anal areas. The doctor may ask you questions about your symptoms and risk factors. Risk factors are things that make you more likely to get an infection. Sometimes the doctor takes a sample of tissue from a wart for testing.

How are genital warts treated?

There are ways to treat genital warts. But the warts may come back because treatment doesn’t kill the HPV infection that causes them.

Talk to your doctor if you want to treat visible genital warts. The warts usually go away with no treatment, but they may also spread. Some people decide to treat them because of the symptoms or because of how the warts look. But if you don’t have symptoms and are not worried about how the warts look, you can wait and see if they go away.

If you decide to treat genital warts, talk to your doctor. There are medicines that you or your doctor can put on the warts. Or your doctor can remove them with lasers or surgery or by freezing them off.

Surgery to remove genital warts may be done when:

  • Medicine treatment has failed and the removal of warts is thought to be needed.
  • Warts are large.

How can you prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?

It’s easier to prevent an STI than it is to treat one:

  • Limit your sex partners. The safest sex is with one partner who has sex only with you.
  • Talk with your partner or partners about STIs before you have sex. Find out if they are at risk for an STI. Remember that it’s possible to have an STI and not know it.
  • Wait to have sex with new partners until you’ve each been tested.
  • Don’t have sex if you have symptoms of an infection or if you are being treated for an STI.
  • Use a condom (a male or female condom) every time you have sex. Condoms are the only form of birth control that also helps prevent STIs.
  • If you’re pregnant, be extra careful. Some STIs can be passed to your baby during delivery.

Vaccines are available for some STIs, such as HPV. Ask your doctor for more information.

HPV vaccine

Experts recommend that children age 11 or 12 get the HPV vaccine, but the vaccine can be given from age 9 to 26. If you are age 27 to 45 and have not been vaccinated for HPV, ask your doctor if getting the vaccine is right for you.

Children ages 9 to 14 get the vaccine in a series of two shots. Some children may need a third dose. Anyone age 15 years and older gets the vaccine as a three-dose series. For the vaccine to work best, all shots in the series must be given.

Current as of: November 22, 2021

Medical Review: Sarah Marshall MD – Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD – Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD – Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD – Family Medicine & Kevin C. Kiley MD – Obstetrics and Gynecology

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Genital warts are small, raised skin lesions that can look like the top of a cauliflower. Though found in both sexes, males can develop warts on the testes, penis, thighs, and groin area. It is caused by the very common human papilloma virus (HPV), of which there are more than 100 types. Most do not cause additional symptoms, but you may find the lesions itchy, painful, or bleeding at times. The most problematic subtypes are HPV 16 and 18, which carry a high risk of cancer. However, the most common subtypes are HPV 6 and 11. The virus is transmitted through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex. You can also find HPV lesions in/around the mouth, lips, anus, tongue, nose, eyes, and throat. The HPV vaccine is an effective way to prevent the disease. Vaccination of males with the HPV vaccine not only prevents the spread of HPV to females, but also prevents other related diseases and cancers. [1] X Trustworthy Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Main public health institute for the US, run by the Dept. of Health and Human Services Go to source

Last Updated March 2021 | This article was created by familydoctor.org editorial staff and reviewed by Kyle Bradford Jones

Table of Contents

What are genital warts?

Genital warts are small, flat, flesh-colored bumps or tiny, cauliflower-like bumps.

Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). There are many kinds of HPV. Not all of them cause genital warts. HPV is associated with cancer of the vulva, anus, and penis. However, it’s important to note that HPV infection doesn’t always lead to cancer, and that genital warts are not cancer.

Symptoms of genital warts

The symptoms of genital warts are the actual warts themselves. In men, genital warts can grow on the penis, near the anus, or between the penis and the scrotum. In women, genital warts may grow on the vulva and perineal area, in the vagina, and on the cervix (the opening to the uterus or womb). Genital warts vary in size and may even be so small that you can’t see them.

What causes genital warts?

HPV causes genital warts. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). The most common way to get HPV is by having oral, vaginal, or anal sex with someone who is infected with HPV.

Just because you can’t see warts on your partner doesn’t mean they don’t have HPV. The infection can have a long incubation period. This means that months can pass between the time a person is infected with the virus and the time a person notices genital warts. Sometimes, the warts can take years to develop. In women, the warts may be where you can’t see them, such as inside the body on the surface of the cervix.

How are genital warts diagnosed?

If you notice warts in your genital area, see your doctor. Your doctor may be able to diagnose the warts just by examining you. For women, a Pap test can help detect changes on the cervix that are caused by genital warts.

Can genital warts be prevented or avoided?

The only sure way to prevent genital warts is to not have sex. If you are sexually active, having sex only with a partner who isn’t infected with HPV and who only has sex with you will lower your risk of getting genital warts.

Using a condom may help prevent you from getting HPV, but condoms are not 100% effective. They do not cover all the affected skin.

What about the HPV vaccine?

There are two types of HPV vaccine. Both types help protect against the HPV strains that are most likely to cause cervical cancer. One type also helps protect against the HPV strains that are most likely to cause genital warts.

Routine HPV vaccination is recommended for the following groups of people:

  • Boys and girls ages 11 to 21
  • Women ages 22 to 26
  • Men ages 22 to 26 years of age who have a compromised immune system
  • Gay and bisexual men

In certain circumstances, your doctor may recommend you receive the vaccination up to age 45.

The vaccines are given as shots (injections in the upper arm) and require 2-3 doses, depending on your age. The vaccine is most effective if children receive it before they start having sex.

Genital wart treatment

Genital warts must be treated by your doctor. Do not try to treat the warts yourself.

The warts can be removed, but the viral infection itself can’t be cured. The virus lives inside your skin. This is why the warts often return after they have been removed. You may need to have them removed more than once.

How are genital warts removed?

One way to remove the warts is to freeze them. This is called cryotherapy. The warts can also be taken off with a laser.

A treatment called the loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) can be used to remove the warts. With this method of removal, a sharp instrument shaped like a loop is passed underneath the wart and the wart is cut out of the skin.

Special chemicals can be used to remove the warts. These chemicals dissolve warts in the genital area. You may need to apply them to the area a number of times over a period of several weeks before the treatment is complete.

Chemicals you can buy at the store to remove warts from your hands should not be used for genital warts. They can make your genital skin very sore.

Living with genital warts

If you have genital warts, talk to your doctor. It is important they treat your warts. Genital warts can grow if you do not get them treated. If you are sexually active, you also risk infecting your partner.

Certain kinds of HPV can cause abnormal cells to grow on the cervix. Sometimes, these cells can become cancerous if left untreated. Other kinds of HPV can cause cancer of the vulva , vagina, anus , or penis.