What are genital warts?

Genital warts are growths or bumps on the penis, vagina, vulva (vaginal lips), cervix (the opening between the vagina and the womb), rectum, or groin. Genital warts are a sexually transmitted infection, or STI, which means that they are caught by having sex with an infected person. Genital warts are also called "condyloma."

After a person has been infected, it may take one to three months for warts to appear. Some people who have been infected never get warts. If you think you have been infected, you should be tested, even if you cannot see any warts.

What do genital warts look like?

Genital warts look like small pink or red growths in or around the sex organs. The warts may look similar to small parts of a cauliflower, or may be very tiny and difficult to see. They often appear in clusters of three or four, and may grow and spread rapidly. They are usually not painful, although they may cause mild pain, bleeding, and itching.

How does a person get genital warts?

Genital warts spread by direct, skin-to-skin contact with the warts of an infected person. Contact most often occurs during sexual activity that involves the penis, vagina, anus, or mouth.

What causes genital warts?

Genital warts are caused by a number of different viruses. These viruses are among a group of more than 60 viruses that are called HPV. HPV can cause genital infections other than genital warts. HPV also causes warts on the hands and feet, though these viruses are not as easily spread.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/12/2014.


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