Warts: - Genital Warts

Genital Warts

What is it

Genital warts are also known as condyloma acuminata, human papillomavirus (HpV), and venereal warts. They are warts which develop on structures found in the genital area, including the urethra (the opening that allows urine to leave the body from the bladder) and the rectum. Genital warts are a form of sexually transmitted disease (STD) and they are caused by a subtype of the same HpV virus that causes other warts.

Genital warts are more contagious than other HpV infections and can affect both sexes. Because genital warts may take 6 months or more to develop, someone can have the genital wart infection without having immediate signs or symptoms.


Genital warts appear on moist surfaces, especially at the entrance of the vagina and rectum in women. They may be small, flat, flesh-colored bumps, or tiny, cauliflower- like bumps. Individual warts usually measure 1 to 2 millimeters in diameter, but clusters may be quite large. In some cases, warts may be so small that you can't see them. Genital warts may produce no symptoms, or they may cause itching, burning, tenderness or pain.

What your doctor looks for

Your doctor will ask about your medical history, including questions about your sexual habits and any prior episodes of STDs. Your doctor will then look for evidence of genital warts on physical examination.


Genital warts can often be diagnosed with a physical examination. A vinegarlike solution placed on the skin turns the warts white and makes diagnosis easier. Other diagnostic tests may include tissue biopsy, colposcopy (using a magnifying glass to view body parts), and pap smear. All sex partners should also be screened for the disorder.

Expected duration

There is no definite time period for the duration of genital warts. Genital warts may resolve on their own or with treatment. They may also last for years. Although the warts may grow rapidly during pregnancy, they often resolve after delivery. Recurrence is common.


The best methods of prevention are; avoiding sex; having a monogamous relationship (only one sex partner) with an uninfected person; or having sex only with persons who do not have genital warts. Using condoms may also help prevent transmission; however, condoms can't always cover all affected skin. Risk increases with the presence of other STDs, multiple sex partners, unsanitary living conditions, poor nutrition, poor hygiene, smoking, certain vitamin deficiencies, and medications or medical conditions that suppress the immune system (i.e., AIDS).


Treatment depends upon the size and location of the warts. Even though the warts may be removed, the underlying viral infection can't be cured, and this is why the warts often return. pregnant women with genital warts require special treatment.

Small warts may be treated topically with medications applied to the skin. In some cases, applying liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy) to warts will freeze the tissue and make warts disappear. Some larger warts require laser treatment, electrocoagulation, or surgical removal. Do not treat genital warts yourself with nonprescription drugs used for wart removal on hands, because these chemicals can make the genital area very sore. Your doctor may prescribe a topical medication which you can use at home. Apply this medication carefully to avoid damaging surrounding healthy tissue, keep it out of your eyes, and wash it off after 4 hours. Your doctor may also suggest that you apply a protective coating of petroleum jelly on delicate surrounding

tissue before you apply your prescribed medication. In some cases, your doctor may use a small needle to inject alpha interferon into each wart. Alpha interferon injections are usually considered if other treatment methods are unsuccessful or if warts recur frequently.

There are no restrictions on activity, other than to avoid sexual relations until treatment is completed. No special diet is required.

When to call your doctor

Contact your physician if you notice warts or bumps on your genital area, or if you experience itching, burning, tenderness or pain in the same area. Call your doctor immediately if you develop signs of infection, such as fever, chills, or muscle aches.


Genital warts may resolve on their own, or with treatment. Recurrence is common. If untreated, genital warts may advance to cause cervical disorders in women.

What You Should Know

Genital warts grow on or around your sex organs. They are seen most often in young adults. In the United States, warts are one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases.


The warts are caused by the human papilloma (pAp-ih-LOW-muh) virus (HpV). This virus is spread by vaginal, anal, and oral sex.


You'll notice one or more warts--small, soft bumps that can be pink, red, white, or brown. In men, they appear in or around the opening of the penis or around the rectum. Women may develop them inside the vagina, rectum, or the urinary canal. They may also appear in the genital area (between the legs). Left untreated, the warts may spread and grow.


The doctor may give you a medicine to remove the warts. They can also be removed by freezing, burning, or cutting. Since HpV can cause cancer, it's important to get rid of the infection completely. If you are pregnant (or think you might be), tell the doctor.

What You Should Do

  • It is important that you follow your doctor's instructions carefully. The warts will not go away without repeated treatment.
  • Do NOT try to treat the warts with medicine used for hand warts. This type of medicine is very strong and can burn the skin in the genital area.
  • Tell all sexual partners with whom you had sex before treatment that you have genital warts. They also may be infected and need treatment.
  • Do not have sex while you are being treated for warts. After that, use of a latex condom during sex will help protect both of you from possible re-infection.
  • Do not touch or scratch the warts; you could spread them to other parts of your body.
  • Women with genital warts should have a cervical cancer check (pap smear) at least once a year. This type of cancer is slow-growing and can be cured if found early.

Call Your Doctor If...

  • The treated skin becomes red, swollen, or painful.
  • You have a high temperature.
  • You feel generally ill.
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