Genital warts are a really common sexually transmitted infection. They look like the warts you get on your hands, but you get them on or around your penis, vagina or anus. Genital warts are easily treated. However, once you have the wart virus it can take months or years to clear it from your system, in which time the warts can come back.
Signs and symptoms
- They can be flat or smooth small bumps, or larger, pink cauliflower-shaped lumps.
- In women they can appear on, around or inside the vagina and anus or on upper thighs.
- In men they can be found on the upper thighs, penis or scrotum, inside the urethra (tube where urine comes out), or on and inside the anus.
- Warts can appear as early as 3 weeks after coming into contact with the virus, but could take months or even years to show.
- They may itch but are usually painless.
- Not everyone who comes into contact with the virus will develop warts.
How do you get it?
- During vaginal or anal sex.
- Skin to skin contact -You don't need to have penetrative sex to pass it on.
- It is possible to pass it on even with a condom - Genital skin not protected by the condom may get infected.
Testing and treatment
A doctor or nurse can usually tell whether you have genital warts just by examining you. An internal examination may be carried out to check for warts inside.
Commonly a clinic will prescribe a cream for you to apply yourself at home. Another common treatment is freezing or laser treatment (cryotherapy).Treatment may be uncomfortable but should not be painful. It may take a while to have an effect, and may need to be repeated until the warts go away. Never try to treat genital warts by yourself - always seek medical advice.
If left untreated the warts may disappear, stay the same or grow larger in size. They don't usually have any long-term effects on your health, but may be uncomfortable or you may just not like how they look. Treating them reduces the risk of passing the virus onto somebody else.