(Anogenital Warts; Condyloma Acuminata; Human Papillomavirus [HPV]; Penile Warts; Venereal Warts; Warts, Genital)
Genital warts are growths or bumps that appear:
- On the vulva
- In or around the vagina or anus
- On the cervix
- On the penis, scrotum, groin, or thigh
- In the mouth or throat (rare)
The warts may be raised or flat, single or multiple, small or large. Some may cluster to form a cauliflower-like shape. This condition is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases
Most people will be exposed to a form of HPV at some point in their lives. Not everyone will become infected or develop symptoms.
Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus
HPV is easily spread during oral, genital, or anal sex with an infected partner. About two-thirds of people who have sex with a partner who has genital warts will also develop them. Warts can take several weeks or months to appear.
Risk factors for HPV and genital warts include:
- Age 15-30 years old
- Multiple sexual partners
- Women whose first male sexual partner has had two or more previous sexual partners *²
Genital warts often look like fleshy, raised growths. They have a cauliflower shape. They often appear in clusters.
In women, warts may be found in the following areas:
- Vulva or vagina
- Inside or around the vagina or anus
In men, warts are less common. If present, they are usually found in these areas:
- Tip or shaft of the penis
- Around the anus
The following symptoms may also occur:
- Secondary bacterial infection with redness, tenderness, or pus
Complications of HPV
Most strains of HPV that produce genital warts do not cause cancer. But certain strains may cause
. Less commonly, cancers of the vulva, anus, or penis occur. It is important for women to have yearly
Pregnancy and Childbirth Complications
Genital warts may get larger during pregnancy. This may make it hard to urinate. Warts in or near the vaginal opening may also block the birth canal during delivery.
Genital warts may be diagnosed by:
A doctor can diagnose genital warts by looking at them. If external warts are found on a woman, then the cervix is usually also checked. A doctor may use a special solution to help find lesions that do not have classic features.
If you get abnormal Pap test results, this may indicate HPV. But, your doctor will order more accurate tests, like a colposcopy , to diagnose HPV.
Colposcopy and Biopsy
During a colposcopy, the doctor uses a special device to see if warts are in the cervix and vagina. For a
Your treatment depends on the size and location of the warts. Treatment helps the symptoms, but does not cure the virus. The virus stays in your body. Warts or other problems may recur.
Treatments may include:
Your doctor may recommend one of these medications to be applied to the affected areas:
Cryosurgery, Electrocautery, or Laser Treatment
Methods that instantly destroy warts include:
- Cryosurgery (freezing)
- Electrocautery (burning)
- Laser treatment
These methods are used on small warts and on large warts that have not responded to other treatment. A large wart can also be removed surgically. For warts that keep coming back, an antiviral drug, called alpha-interferon, can be injected into the wart.
The only way to completely prevent HPV from spreading is to avoid physical contact with an infected partner.
Latex condoms may help reduce the spread of HPV infection and genital warts. Condoms are not 100% effective. They do not cover the entire genital area.
Other ways to prevent infection include:
- Abstaining from sex
- Having a monogamous relationship
- Getting regular check-ups for STDs
- For women, getting regular Pap tests (starting at age 18 or at the start of sexually activity)
A new vaccine , Gardasil, prevents infection by some, but not all, of the HPV strains that cause cervical cancer. The vaccine is routinely recommended for girls 11-12 years old. It has been found safe for females 9-26 years old.
In trials, the vaccine was linked to a reduced number of precancerous lesions on the cervix.
Genital warts are rare in children. This diagnosis may indicate sexual abuse. Abuse needs to be reported.
American Social Health Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Sex Information and Education Council of Canada
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*²5/11/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : Winer RL, Feng Q, Hughes JP, O'Reilly S, Kiviat NB, Koutsky LA. Risk of female human papillomavirus acquisition associated with first male sex partner. J Infect Dis. 2008;197:279-282.
Last reviewed January 2009 by
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