Genital warts are a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a very common virus, and most people will get it at some point in their lives. Genital warts are not a serious medical condition, but they can be unsightly and embarrassing.
If your partner has genital warts, it is possible for you to get them as well. HPV can be spread through skin-to-skin contact, even if there are no visible warts. However, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of getting genital warts, such as using condoms and getting vaccinated against HPV.
How are genital warts spread?
Genital warts are spread through skin-to-skin contact with someone who has the virus. This can happen during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. HPV can also be spread through direct contact with genital warts.
What are the symptoms of genital warts?
Genital warts can appear anywhere on the genital area, including the penis, vagina, cervix, anus, and inside the urethra. Warts can be small and flat, or they can be large and cauliflower-shaped. They can be single or multiple, and they can be flesh-colored, white, or brown.
Some people with genital warts do not have any symptoms. Others may experience itching, burning, or discomfort around the warts. Warts can also make it difficult to urinate or have sex.
How are genital warts diagnosed?
Genital warts are usually diagnosed by a visual examination. However, your doctor may also order a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.
How are genital warts treated?
There is no cure for HPV, but the virus can go away on its own over time. However, genital warts can be treated to remove them or reduce their size. There are a number of different treatment options available, including:
- Topical medications: Topical medications, such as imiquimod (Aldara) and podofilox (Condylox), can be applied to the warts to kill them or shrink them.
- Cryotherapy: Cryotherapy is a procedure in which the warts are frozen off with liquid nitrogen.
- Electrosurgery: Electrosurgery is a procedure in which the warts are burned off with an electric current.
- Laser surgery: Laser surgery is a procedure in which the warts are removed with a laser.
Can genital warts be prevented?
The best way to prevent genital warts is to get vaccinated against HPV. The HPV vaccine is safe and effective, and it is recommended for all boys and girls aged 9 to 14.
Other ways to prevent genital warts include:
- Using condoms during sex
- Avoiding sex with people who have genital warts
If your partner has genital warts
If your partner has genital warts, it is important to talk to your doctor about your risk of getting them. Your doctor can also recommend ways to reduce your risk of getting genital warts, such as using condoms and getting vaccinated against HPV.
If you are concerned that you may have genital warts, it is important to see a doctor right away. Genital warts can be treated, but early diagnosis and treatment is important.