Genital warts are growths or bumps that appear:
Genital warts are a common sexually transmitted infection (STI).
The warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). It is spread during oral, genital, or anal sex with a partner who has the virus.
Warts can also be spread to an infant during birth from a mother who has genital warts.
The warts are more common in young adults.
Other things that may raise the risk are:
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. Warts can take 3 weeks to 18 months to appear after the infection.
Warts usually do not cause problems, but a person may have:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. A pelvic exam may be done in women. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.
A biopsy may be taken to confirm the diagnosis.
There is no cure. The virus stays in the body.
Treatment depends on the size of the warts and where they are on the body. 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.
Warts may also be removed by:
The warts may come back after treatment.
To lower the risk of genital warts:
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 to 12 years old. It may be given between the ages of 9 years to 26 years old.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Sex Information and Education Council of Canada
Condyloma acuminatum. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/condyloma-acuminatum. Accessed October 16, 2020.
Genital warts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes.htm. Accessed October 16, 2020.
Human papillomavirus (HPV). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hpv. Accessed October 16, 2020.
Immunization schedules. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html. Accessed October 16, 2020.
Workowski KA, Bolan GA; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2015. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2015 Jun 5;64(RR-03):1-137.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Elliot M. Levine, MD, FACOG Last Updated: 4/27/2021