Genital Warts

Genital warts are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) by direct skin to skin contact with other lesions (although it can occur from lesions about to appear also). There is a really long latent period between being infected, and developing warts, so having a single partner with warts does not imply infidelity.

It is most often caused by HPV types 6 and 11, and infection results in protection against that type again (though it’s unclear if there is cross protective immunity).

Symptoms

  • Warty growths in and around the genital skin
  • Distorted urinary stream in men with urethral lesions, or sometimes bleeding
  • Perianal itch
  • Bleeding after opening bowels with anal lesions

Left untreated it can cause more significant complications including;

Men

  • Penile, anal or oropharyngeal cancer (rare unless associated with cancer causing subtypes – which usually don’t cause warts)
  • More common in men who have sex with men (40x increased risk)
  • HIV positive men have 100x increased risk

Women

  • Rarely cancers from genital warts, but more likely with cancer causing subtypes

How is it diagnosed?

By visual appearance. If the appearance isn’t quite in keeping with typical warts, a biopsy may be needed.

There is no specific blood test for HPV.

What do I do if I have genital warts?

Treatment is more for the cosmetic appearance and symptoms rather than cure.

Topical treatment with a cream or paint applied to the warts is repeated weekly until resolved.

Alternatively if it is in a difficult to treat area, your doctor at GS Health can apply cryotherapy (freeze the lesion) weekly until resolved.

Very severe cases may need specialist treatment.

If you have warts, avoiding shaving or waxing until they are cleared can prevent them spreading to a larger area.

What next?

Not much really. HPV vaccination can prevent the chance of certain types of warts, have a read of our page on HPV vaccinations for more information.

If you’re interested in doing an STI screen, or are worried you might have symptoms book in with our doctors for an STI check. If you want to know how often you should get tested, have a look at our page on how often should I have a sexual health check for more information.

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