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Genital Warts

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Genital warts is a condition that spreads by skin-to-skin contact. These genital warts grow in and around the genitals and anus. The following article will cover details regarding this contagious sexually transmitted disease.

What are Genital Warts?

Genital warts are also called as venereal warts, anogenital warts, etc. They are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus spreads through direct skin-to-skin contact during unprotected sex. When one has unprotected oral, genital or anal sex with an infected partner, it can lead to HPV infection. It has been found, not all who contract HPV develop warts. Yet, they can transmit the virus to other people on sexual contact.

How Do Genital Warts Appear?

Genital warts can vary in size, shape, appearance. They can be flat or lumpy. They can be small or big, and may even appear like a cauliflower. Some warts are so small, they are hard to spot by the naked eye. These warts are either flesh-colored, pink or red. The warts are often in a cluster of 3 to 4 and can spread very fast.

Symptoms of Genital Warts

Symptoms of genital warts appear at least two to four weeks after the infection. In some cases, they appear months after the infection. These warts are not painful, but cause a lot of discomfort. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Itchiness
  • Occasional bleeding from warts
  • Rough cauliflower like appearance or flat warts
  • Warts on the penis and under the foreskin in men
  • Warts can appear on the urethra and poke out
  • In and around the anus
  • Warts on the cervix, lips of the vulva, vagina or urethra in women

What Causes Genital Warts?

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Genital warts are a type of skin infection that affects the genital and anal region. It is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). There are over 100 types of HPV, that can cause warts. Of these over 30 types cause warts near the genital area. The HPV 6 and 11 is the most common type that causes genital warts.

How Do Genital Warts Spread?

Genital warts are easily passed person to person by sexual contact. Both men and women can easily pass on the virus. The virus spreads during:

  • Vaginal and anal sex
  • Close skin to skin contact near the genital or anal area
  • Oral sex that leads to warts in the mouth, throat or lips on rare occasions
  • From genital area of the anus
  • From mother to the baby during birth (very rare)


Diagnosis is made by the physical appearance of the warts. In some cases, biopsy may be required. Women may have to undergo a Pap test and the HPV test.


Warts that do not cause any problems, may not require treatment. When they itch, burn, bleed and cause emotional distress, one may require treatment. These include:


Medications that are available in cream form that helps fight off genital warts include imiquimod, podophyllin and podofilox. Some doctors may apply tricholoracetic acid (TCA) a chemical that helps burn off the warts. TCA has been always and only applied by the doctors.

When medications don’t help, one may have to undergo surgery. That includes:

  • Electrocautery
  • Cryotherapy
  • Laser treatment
  • Surgical excision


Genital warts once treated will not trouble one again. But, there is always a chance of them appearing again. Women should regularly get themselves checked and undergo Pap smear tests. As they are always under the risk of developing cervical cancer.

Warts in some cases go away on their own without treatment. Some may grow in size and number. It is usually dependent on the individual immune system. They are not harmful, but cause a lot of discomfort and cause cosmetic embarrassment. Speak to your doctor regarding genital warts and its prevention.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: March 13, 2015

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