header Image header Image

Genital warts

What is it?

Genital warts are caused by a very common skin virus in the human papillomavirus (HPV) family. It is not one of the HPV types that leads to cancer. The HPV vaccination given in schools and sexual health clinics can protect against genital warts.

How is it passed on?

Genital warts are easily passed from one person to another through skin-to-skin contact in the genital area.

You can’t get genital warts from sharing towels, cups, plates, cutlery or toilet seats

What are the symptoms?

Most people do not show any signs or symptoms (they do not get any warts), and the virus can go away by itself. This means you might not know if you or your partner has the virus.

If you do get warts you might notice fleshy growths, bumps, or skin changes which may appear anywhere in the genital or anal area. Click here to see some photos of warts.

Warts can appear any time from three weeks to many years after first coming into contact with the genital wart virus.

How do you test for it?

There is no routine test available. Genital warts are diagnosed in clinic by the doctor or nurse looking at your skin.

What is the treatment?

If you have genital warts, you will be offered a treatment that is suitable for you. This may include

  • Cream treatment to be used at home
  • Freezing treatment – this is done by a doctor or a nurse at a clinic

Both types of treatment may need to be used for several weeks or months to be effective.

Once the warts have gone, there is a chance they may come back.  People who smoke tend to take longer to clear the wart virus from their bodies so stopping smoking is recommended.

Warning – Do not use wart treatments that you can buy at a chemist or pharmacy. They will not work and can cause considerable discomfort to the skin in the genital area. Genital skin is very sensitive.

Find out how to avoid STIs.