Genital Warts

Genital warts are caused by a virus known as the human papillom virus (HPV). This is easily passed from one person to another through sexual contact.

Once you have the virus it can remain in the body and be passed on before the warts are noticeable or after they have disappeared. Warts can be external or internal. In women warts can be found on or in the vagina, vulva, cervix and anus.

In men warts can be found on or around the penis, scrotum and urethra, and on or inside the anus. The virus can be spread if you have vaginal or anal sex or share sex toys. It is possible, but unusual, to develop warts in the mount or on the lips from oral sex.

Warts can spread to the area around the anus without having anal sex.

Signs and symptoms

It can take from two weeks to several months or longer after coming into contact with the virus before the warts may appear. If you do get visible warts you may notice small, fleshy growths, bumps or skin changes which appear anywhere in the genital or anal area.

You might see or feel them or your partner may notice them. They can be flat, smooth, small bumps or quite large, pink, cauliflower-like lumps. Warts can appear on their own or in groups and are usually painless.

They may occasionally itch and cause some inflammation. They may also cause some bleeding from the anus or urethra.

If left untreated

The body can often fight off HPV without treatment. If left untreated genital warts may disappear, but some stay the same, or grow larger in number and size. However, if you delay treatment you risk passing the virus on to someone else.

Any concerns?

If you have any concerns please contact your local GUM clinic, see map of services.

Page last updated:28 October 2014