Genital Warts

you don't know someone has genital warts by looking at them

What are genital warts?

Genital warts are small fleshy growths or bumps that appear on or around the genital or anal area.   In England, they are the second most common type of Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI).  They are usually painless and do not pose a serious threat to health, however they can be passed on to other people through sex.

Symptoms of genital warts

Most people will not develop any visible warts. If genital warts do appear, it can be several weeks, months or even years after you first came into contact with the virus.

Warts in women

The most common places for genital warts to develop in women are:

  •  around the vulva (the opening of the vagina)
  •  on the cervix (the neck of the womb)
  •  inside the vagina
  •  around or inside the anus
  •  on the upper thighs


Warts in men

The most common places for genital warts to develop in men are:

  •  anywhere on the penis
  •  on the scrotum
  •  inside the urethra (tube where urine comes out)
  •  around or inside the anus
  •  on the upper thighs

How do they spread?

Genital warts are most likely to be spread during vaginal or anal sex, and by sharing sex toys, you don't need to have penetrative sex to pass the infection on because the virus is spread by skin-to-skin contact.

It can take months, or even years, for warts to develop after infection. So if you're in a relationship and you get genital warts, it does not necessarily mean your partner has been having sex with other people.

Get tested

If you think you have genital warts or have had unprotected sex (sex without a condom) get tested at the Integrated Sexual Health Service.

Treating genital warts

The treatment for genital warts depends on how many warts you have and where they are. Several treatments are available, such as liquids or creams and freezing the warts (cryotherapy).

You should not use wart creams that are available over the counter because they are designed to only treat warts on the hands or verrucas.

If you are diagnosed with genital warts, it is recommended you do not have sex, including anal and oral sex, until your genital warts have fully healed. This will help prevent you passing the infection on to others. It will also help speed up your recovery.

Preventing genital warts

Using condoms (male or female) every time you have vaginal or anal sex is the most effective way to avoid getting genital warts, other than being celibate (not having sex).

However, the protection offered by condoms is not 100%, because the virus is spread by skin-to-skin contact, it is possible for the skin around your genital area not covered by the condom to become infected.

But condoms remain the safest option. If you have oral sex, cover the penis with a condom. A dental dam, which is a latex or polyurethane (plastic) square, can be used to cover the anal area or female genitals.  The C-card provides free condoms (male and female) and dental dams to young people aged 25 or under.  The Integrated Sexual Health Service provides condoms and dental dams free to people of any age.

Avoid sharing sex toys, wash them or cover them with a new condom before anyone else uses them.




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