Genital warts are viral sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
They look like soft growths pink in colour or flesh-coloured, pearly bumps (typical is cauliflower-like appearance). Warts can be single or multiple with various sizes, from millimetres to 1 cm. They grow on the glans, penile shaft, scrotum, and pubic area. In many cases, the warts are too small to be visible.
Genital warts generally appear one to eight months following viral exposure. Usually, they cause few symptoms like pain or discomfort, but for most are painful.
Some strains of genital HPV, the molluscum contagiosum and herpes virus can cause genital warts. HPV infection is dangerous for women because some types can cause cancer of the cervix and vulva. Warts do not have to be visible to spread the infection to the sexual partner.
The transmission occurs during sexual activity. Warts can only become visible to the naked eye after several weeks or months. They can be tiny. The top of the growths may look like cauliflower or umbilicated in the middle. They may occur as a cluster of warts or just a single wart. Rarely, however, they can multiply into large clusters in someone with a suppressed immune system.
Genital warts on males may appear in the following areas:
For females, these warts may appear:
Genital warts may also appear on the lips, mouth, tongue, or throat of a person who has had oral sexual contact with a person who has warts.
Most of the time, we cannot see warts in females. However, they may still cause symptoms, such as:
If genital warts become enlarged, the condition can be uncomfortable or even painful, and they can bleed during and after intercourse.
To get rid of genital warts, we can spread some creams over the affected skin. While multiple applications are needed, the results are not always curative, and the side effects can cause skin ulcers. Laser, cryo-ablation, or electro-cautery are effective treatments for HPV and molluscus contagiosum. However, surveillance after treatment can early detect the recurrences. Often the eradication needs more than one session. We treat herpes lesions differently. Physical or chemical destruction does not work like for the herpes virus. We use antiviral agents in creams and tablets to treat the outbreak and recurrences. Long term oral treatment helps prevent recurrences.
Genital HPV Infection – Fact Sheet – American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention