Genital Warts

Genital warts are soft wart-like growths on the genitals caused by a viral skin disease.

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Genital Warts

Genital warts are a type of sexually transmitted disease (STD). The virus responsible for genital warts is called human papilloma virus (HPV). This virus can cause warts on the penis , vulva , urethra, vagina , cervix , and around the anus.

HPV infection around the genitals is common, although most people have no symptoms. Even if you do NOT have symptoms, however, you must be treated to avoid complications and spreading the condition to others.

There are more than 70 different types of HPV. Several types are associated with genital warts. Other types are associated with common or flat warts elsewhere on the skin.

HPV grows well in the moist genital area. Warts on the outer genitals are easily recognized. They are raised, flesh-colored lesions that may occur singly or in clusters. Left untreated, warts may rapidly enlarge, taking on a "cauliflower-like" appearance.

In women, HPV can invade the vagina and cervix. These warts are flat and invisible without special procedures. Because HPV can lead to cancerous and precancerous changes in the cervix , it is important that this condition be treated. Regular pap smears are necessary to detect HPV or other abnormal changes related to this virus. Having both HPV and herpes virus together puts you at special risk for cervical cancer .

The following factors put you at high risk for getting genital warts and other complications of HPV:

  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Not knowing if someone you had sex with had STDs
  • Early age when you start to be sexually active
  • Tobacco and alcohol use
  • Stress and other viral infections (such as HIV or herpes) at the same time

If a child has genital warts, you should suspect sexual abuse as a possible cause.

Other sources of information for these topics.

Human Papillomavirus and Genital Warts, NIAID Fact Sheet
Information from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases about the virus and how it relates to genital warts, including diagnosis, ...

Genital Warts
Information from the San Francisco Department of Public Health about how they are spread, treatment, prevention, and risk factors.

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