Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Sexual Conditions Health Center

Select An Article

Genital Warts and HPV

Font Size
A
A
A

Warts are caused by viruses and can appear anywhere on the body. Those that show up in the genital area are caused by the human papillomavirus, commonly called HPV, and are easily transmitted by sexual contact.

HPV infection is the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) in North America. Certain forms of the virus can cause cervical, rectal, vulvar, vaginal, and penile cancer. According to the CDC, at least 50% of sexually active men and women will get a genital HPV infection at some point in their lives.

Recommended Related to HPV/Genital Warts

HPV Symptoms and Tests

Infection by genital HPV (human papillomavirus) is very common. At least half of people who are sexually active will contract the HPV virus at some point in their lives. Yet many will not know it and have no symptoms. Whether symptoms occur or not can depend on the type of HPV virus involved in the infection. There are more than 100 types of HPV. Some HPV types are associated with genital warts, although the warts are not always visible. Some types of HPV are associated with cervical and other...

Read the HPV Symptoms and Tests article > >

After a person has been infected by HPV, it may take one to three months (or longer in some cases) for warts to appear. Some people who have been infected never get warts.

What Do Genital Warts Look Like?

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

Genital Wart Symptoms

Like many STDs, HPV does not always have visible symptoms. But when symptoms do occur, warts may be seen around the genital area. In women, warts can develop on the outside and inside of the vagina, on the cervix (the opening to the uterus), or around the anus. In men, they may be seen on the tip of the penis, the shaft of the penis, on the scrotum, or around the anus. Genital warts also can develop in the mouth or throat of a person who has had oral sex with an infected person.

Because there is no way to predict whether the warts will grow or disappear, people who have been infected should be examined and treated, if necessary.

Genital Wart Testing

Your doctor may perform the following tests to check for genital warts and/or related STDs:

  • An examination of visible growths to see if they look like genital warts
  • Application of a mild acetic acid (vinegar) solution to highlight less visible growths
  • A complete pelvic exam and Pap smear (for women)
  • A specialized test for high-risk HPV (low risk should not be screened for), collected in a way similar to a Pap smear
  • Biopsy of cervical tissue ( if abnormal pap smear or visible abnormality) to make sure there are no abnormal cells that could develop into HPV-related cervical cancer; a cervical biopsy involves taking a small sample of tissue from the cervix and examining it under a microscope.
  • Examination of the rectum

 Female patients may be referred to a gynecologist (a doctor who specializes in female reproductive health) for further testing and biopsy.

1 | 2 | 3
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Sex Drive Killers 03
Slideshow
couple holding hands
Quiz
 
Couple in bed
Article
Condom Quiz
Quiz
 

HIV Myth Facts
Slideshow
STD Overview
Slideshow
 
Man tearing a condom packet
Quiz
things your guy wish you knew slideshow
Slideshow
 

Thoughtful man sitting on bed
Quiz
Girls Puberty 10
Quiz
 
Couple in bed
Article
Young couple holding hands
Quiz