Genital warts

Genital warts are one of the most common types of sexually transmitted infections. At least half of all sexually active people will become infected with human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes genital warts, at some point during their lives. Women are somewhat more likely than men to develop genital warts.

As the name suggests, genital warts affect the moist tissues of the genital area. Genital warts may look like small, flesh-colored bumps or have a cauliflower-like appearance. In many cases, the warts are too small to be visible.

Like warts that appear elsewhere on your body, genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Some strains of genital HPV can cause genital warts, while others can cause cancer. Vaccines can help protect against certain strains of genital HPV.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

In women, genital warts can grow on the vulva, the walls of the vagina, the area between the external genitals and the anus, the anal canal, and the cervix. In men, they may occur on the tip or shaft of the penis, the scrotum, or the anus. Genital warts can also develop in the mouth or throat of a person who has had oral sexual contact with an infected person.

The signs and symptoms of genital warts include:

  • Small, flesh-colored or gray swellings in your genital area
  • Several warts close together that take on a cauliflower shape
  • Itching or discomfort in your genital area
  • Bleeding with intercourse

Often, genital warts may be so small and flat that they can't be seen with the naked eye. Sometimes, however, genital warts may multiply into large clusters.

When to see a doctor

See a doctor if you or your partner develops bumps or warts in the genital area.

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