Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Genital Warts

(Anogenital Warts; Condyloma Acuminata; Human Papillomavirus [HPV]; Penile Warts; Venereal Warts; Warts, Genital)

Definition

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
  • Rarely, in the mouth or throat

Genital warts are a common sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Genital Warts
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Causes  ^

The warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). It is spread during oral, genital, or anal sex with partner who has the virus.

Warts can also be spread to an infant during birth if the mother has genital warts.

Risk Factors  ^

The warts are more common in young adults.

Factors that may raise your risk are:

  • Skin-to-skin contact with an infected partner
  • Sex without condoms
  • Having more than one sex partner
  • Sex at an early age
  • Prior STIs

Symptoms  ^

The warts often look like fleshy, raised growths. They can have a cauliflower shape, and often appear in groups. Some warts may be flat. The warts may not be easy to see with the unaided eye. Warts can take 3 weeks to 18 months to appear after the infection.

Warts usually don’t cause symptoms, but you may have:

  • Pain
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Bleeding or irritation on contact

In women, warts may be found on the:

  • Vulva or vagina
  • Inside or around the vagina or anus
  • Cervix

In men, warts may be found on the:

  • Tip or shaft of the penis
  • Scrotum
  • Around the anus

Diagnosis  ^

Genital warts may be diagnosed by:

Visual Exam

A doctor can diagnose the warts by looking at them. If warts are found on a woman, then the cervix will be checked. A special solution may be used to help view the area.

Biopsy

A biopsy may be taken confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment  ^

Treatment helps the symptoms, but does not cure the virus. The virus stays in your body. This means the warts may come back.

Your treatment depends on the size of the warts and where they are. Not all warts need to be treated. Some may go away on their own, but others may stay. Some warts may also get larger or spread.

Here are some treatments:

Medicine

Topical medicine is put on the skin. It may be a cream, ointment, resin, solution, or acid.

Cryosurgery, Electrocautery, or Lasers

Methods that destroy warts on contact are:

  • Cryosurgery (freezing)
  • Electrocautery (burning)
  • Laser treatment

These methods are used on small warts. It may be used on larger warts that have not gotten better with other treatments. A large wart can also be removed with surgery.

Prevention  ^

The only way to prevent HPV from spreading is to avoid contact with infected partners.

Latex condoms may help lower the spread of the virus and warts. Condoms are not 100% effective because they do not cover the entire genital area.

Other ways to help prevent infection are:

  • Abstain from sex.
  • Have sex with only one person.

Vaccine

There is a vaccine for the virus. It is given over 6 months as a series of 3 shots to girls and boys. It is routinely given between the ages of 11-12 years old. It may be given between the ages of 9 years to 26 years old.

RESOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov

Planned Parenthood
http://www.plannedparenthood.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

Sex Information and Education Council of Canada
http://www.sieccan.org

REFERENCES:

Batista CS, Atallah AN, et al. 5-FU for genital warts in non-immunocompromised individuals. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Apr 14;4:CD006562.

Cervical cancer screening. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq085.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20130205T1433163887. Published September 2017. Accessed August 2, 2018.

Condyloma acuminatum. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115113/Condyloma-acuminatum. Updated February 19, 2018. Accessed August 2, 2018.

Dunne EF, Markowitz LE. Genital human papillomavirus infection. Clin Infect Dis. 2006; 43:624.

Genital Warts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment/2010/genital-warts.htm. Updated January 28, 2011. Accessed August 2, 2018.

Human papillomavirus (HPV). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hpv. Updated April 5, 2018. Accessed August 2, 2018.

Immunization schedules. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html. Updated February 6, 2018. Accessed August 2, 2018.

Lowy DR, Schiller JT. Papillomaviruses and cervical cancer: pathogenesis and vaccine development. J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr. 1998;23:27-30.

Saslow D, Soloman D, et al. American Cancer Society, American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, and American Society for Clinical Pathology screening guidelines for the prevention and early detection of cervical cancer. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2012 Mar 14 early online.

Workowski KA, Berman S, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010. MMWR. 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.

1/4/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115113/Condyloma-acuminatum: The FUTURE II Study Group. Quadrivalent vaccine against human papillomavirus to prevent high-grade cervical lesions. N Engl J Med. 2007;356:1915-1927.

1/4/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115113/Condyloma-acuminatum: 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.

1/4/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115113/Condyloma-acuminatum: FDA approves new indication for Gardasil to prevent genital warts in men and boys. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm187003.htm. Published October 16, 2009. Accessed June 9, 2016.

1/4/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115113/Condyloma-acuminatum: Screening for cervical cancer. United States Preventive Services Task Force website. Available at: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspscerv.htm. Published July 2015. Accessed June 7, 2016.

Last reviewed June 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG  Last Updated: 8/2/2018