Genital warts are among the most common sexually transmitted infections in the UK. They appear as fleshy bumps on and around the genital area. They’re not dangerous, and they don’t cause any symptoms, but they can be a nuisance and something a patient would want treatment for. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed below please seek advice from a GP or go to a sexual health clinic, which often have walk-in appointments.
Causes of genital warts
Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). There are around 30 different types of HPV, but 9 out of every 10 cases of genital warts are caused by two particular strains of HPV – 6 & 11 and these types do not cause cancer. Not everyone infected with HPV develops genital warts and they often go away on their own.
The warts are spread from one person to another through genital contact. You don’t need to have penetrative sex to contract the infection – it’s spread by skin-to-skin contact, and therefore condoms won’t necessarily protect you from genital warts. Sharing unwashed sex toys can also spread the virus from one person to another.
The warts don’t necessarily appear immediately after you’ve been infected with HPV – they can take months, or even years to develop for the first time. The virus is most contagious when the warts are present, but you can still pass on the virus before the warts appear.
Symptoms of genital warts
The warts themselves look like small, fleshy bumps around the genitals or anus. Men can develop them anywhere on the penis and scrotum, while women might find them around the vulva and the cervix. Both can develop warts on the upper thighs and around the anus. Sometimes, the warts can grow in clusters, creating a ‘cauliflower’-like appearance. They’re usually painless, but they can cause irritation for some people.
Some people also experience itching or bleeding around the genitals or anus or a change in urinary flow. Genital warts are usually diagnosed by examination and rarely a sample is taken of the wart for further investigation.
Treatment for genital warts
Though genital warts are usually harmless, some people find them uncomfortable or irritating and want to have them removed. Fortunately, there are a number of options available, including creams, liquids and cryotherapy (a freezing treatment). Each method has pros and cons – for example, cryotherapy may only be appropriate for warts on the upper thigh area, where the skin is not quite so delicate as the vulva or scrotum.
Arrange a confidential consultation today to discuss your treatment options with an experienced GP without having to visit a surgery.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.