What are genital warts?

Genital warts are a type of sexually transmitted disease (STD). The disease causes warts (small bumps or growth ) to form in and around the genitals and rectum. Certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) cause genital warts.

Some warts are very small. Still, you can usually feel or see them. Healthcare providers may call genital warts condyloma; STDs are also called sexually transmitted infections (STIs). You can give genital warts to other people.

Where do you get genital warts?

Genital warts can infect the:

  • Groin (area between the stomach and thigh).
  • Inside and outside of the anus.
  • Lips, mouth, tongue or throat.
  • Penis and scrotum (the sac that contains the testicles).
  • Vagina (including inside the vagina), vulva, vaginal lips (labia minora and labia majora) and cervix (tissue that connects the vagina and uterus).

How common are genital warts?

An estimated 400,000 people — most of them in their late teens and twenties — get genital warts every year. The virus that causes these warts, HPV, is the most common STD. Approximately 79 million Americans have HPV. There are many different types of HPV. Not all cause genital warts.

Who might get genital warts?

Genital warts affect all genders. It’s most common in teenagers and young adults. Men are slightly more at risk. Your chances of getting genital warts increase if you:

  • Don’t use condoms while having sex.
  • Have multiple sexual partners.

Are genital warts contagious?

Yes, genital warts and the virus that causes them are both highly contagious. There isn’t a cure for HPV. Once you have the virus, you’re always infectious. Even if you don’t have symptoms like genital warts, or you have the warts treated and removed, you can still infect another person with HPV and genital warts.

What causes genital warts?

Certain types of HPV cause this STD. Genital warts spread through skin-to-skin contact during sex. A different virus causes warts on your hands and feet. You can’t get genital warts by touching yourself or someone else with a hand or foot that has warts.

Genital warts spread through:

  • Intercourse, including anal, vaginal-penile and vaginal-vaginal.
  • Genital touching (skin-to-skin contact without ejaculation).
  • Giving oral sex to someone who has HPV or genital warts.
  • Receiving oral sex from someone who has HPV or who has genital warts on the mouth, lips or tongue.

How soon do genital warts appear after infection?

Some people develop genital warts within weeks after infection. Often, though, it can take months or years for warts to appear. For this reason, it can be difficult to pinpoint when you got infected.

It’s also possible to have the virus and not get genital warts. You might not know if you have warts inside the anus or elsewhere in the body. If you don’t have symptoms, you may unknowingly infect others with the virus.

What are the symptoms of genital warts?

Warts look like rough, skin-colored growths. Genital warts often have a bumpy cauliflower look, but some are flat. Genital warts aren’t usually painful. Occasionally, they cause:

  • Mild bleeding.
  • Burning sensation.
  • Discomfort.
  • Genital itching or irritation.

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