What Are the Symptoms & Signs of Genital Warts?

Of all warts, 30% will subside within the first four months of infection.
Of all warts, 30% will subside within the first four months of infection.

Of all warts, 30% will subside within the first four months of infection.

A genital wart is a type of sexually transmitted disease appearing in various sizes and shapes. Some people get a few warts, whereas some get many. 

The most common signs of genital warts are as follows:

  • Small skin-colored or darker bumps
  • A cluster of bumps resembling a cauliflower
  • Raised or flat and smooth or rough bumps

Genital warts often have no symptoms. Some people develop warts that are itchy and painful, burn, or bleed.

In men, genital warts can appear on the

  • penis
  • scrotum
  • thigh

In women, genital warts are found on the

  • vulva (external female genitals),
  • vagina, and
  • cervix.

In both men and women, genital warts can appear

  • on the groin
  • in the mouth or throat
  • in or around the anus

What causes genital warts?

Genital warts are caused by the spread of human papillomavirus (HPV) from one infected person to a noninfected person. This happens during

  • Sexual contact (vaginal, anal, or oral).
  • Genital contact (when people's genitals touch).
  • Childbirth (from an infected mother to baby)

Warts may not appear until weeks or months after sex with an infected person.

Who gets genital warts?

Those who get genital warts include:

  • Anyone who has sex: Sexually active people are more likely to get human papillomavirus (HPV). It is most common in young people (less than 30 years old).
  • People with a weakened immune system:
  • People who have cancer
  • People who have acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
  • People who are on some medicines, such as those to prevent rejection of the transplanted organs
  • Smokers: It is not clear why people who smoke are more likely to get genital warts than people who do not.
  • A child who has been just delivered by an infected mother: An infected mother can pass the virus to her baby during childbirth

Every person who gets an HPV infection does not always get genital warts. Most people never develop these warts because of their strong immunity.


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How are genital warts diagnosed?

Genital warts are usually diagnosed after the doctor examines genital growths. However, because of awkwardness and embarrassment, patients do not consult their doctors for genital growths/problems. Getting diagnosed properly and seeking early treatment can make these patients be at peace.

After taking the medical history, including the patient’s sexual history and examining the genital growths, the diagnosis of genital warts becomes almost certain. To confirm their diagnosis, the doctor can order diagnostic tests that include:

  • Tissue biopsy: The doctor removes the wart or a small part of it and sends for examination in a laboratory. It may be done by anoscopy or colposcopy.
  • Anoscopy: A tube-like camera called an anoscope may be inserted into the anus to visualize warts beyond the visible skin.
  • Colposcopy: A tube-like instrument called a colposcope is inserted into the vagina to visualize warts inside the vagina and cervix.

Once the doctor confirms that the patient has genital warts, all of the patient’s sex partners should also be examined for the infection.

Genital warts. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/genital-warts-causes

Genital warts. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/genital-warts-a-to-z