What is it?
Genital warts are viral infections that are caused by an infection of the skin, genital and anal area with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
The virus is more likely to be passed on when the warts are present but it is still possible to pass on the virus after the warts have disappeared.
The virus that causes genital warts is easily passed on through sexual contact. Genital warts can be passed on from one person to another during unprotected vaginal, anal and/or oral sex.
The virus can be spread by close genital contact, for example skin to skin; you don’t need to have penetration sex to pass it on.
The virus will not pass through a condom, but if someone has the virus in the groin area the condom will not cover this and the virus can still be passed on.
You cannot get genital warts from kissing, hugging, sharing baths or towels.
Signs and Symptoms:
Most people infected with HPV will not develop visible warts. If warts do appear this can happen anything between 3 weeks, months and even years after coming into contact with the virus.
You might not notice small fleshy growths, bumps which may appear anywhere in or around the genital area.
Genital warts can be flat or smooth small bumps or quite large, pink, cauliflower-like lumps.
Genital warts are usually painless but occasionally itch and can cause some inflammation.
The main way in which genital warts are diagnosed is through a doctor or a nurse having a look at them.
You may need an internal examination of the anus or vagina, to see if there are any warts inside.
You will only be offered treatment for genital warts if they are visible. The treatment offered will depend on what the warts look like, how many you have and where they are. Some people may choose not to have treatment; however having the treatment is more likely to make them go away faster. As genital warts are cause by a virus and not a bacteria it means that antibiotics will not get rid of the warts.
Some potential treatment methods are:
- Cream or liquids directly on to the warts for a few days each week- this is usually completed by you at home
- Heat - using local anaesthetic
- Surgery - using local anaesthetic
- Laser treatment - using local anaesthetic
Where to go:
Genitourinary Medicine (GUM) Services offer you free and confidential service for testing and treating of genital infections including genital warts. You can find your local GUM or Contraception Clinic by typing in your postcode into the Service Finder.