How Do I Know if I Have Genital Warts?

Medically Reviewed by Nivin Todd, MD on April 29, 2023
2 min read

Both men and women can get genital warts, but the symptoms might be different. Here is what you need to know.

In women, genital warts appear in and around the vagina , vulva, or anus, or on the cervix. They might be very small or appear as large clusters. They may be reddish in color or white. Sometimes, you can have genital warts but show no symptoms at all.

If you’re a woman who’s had unprotected sex, you’ll want to have your doctor examine you. Testing for low-risk HPV -- the virus that causes genital warts -- isn’t routinely done. Your doctor will have to examine you to see if you have warts to know for sure. Warts may appear months or years after sexual contact.

Sometimes, genital warts can form inside your vagina and be hard to spot. You could also have symptoms that look like genital warts but turn out to be something else.

In men, the warts may appear on the penis, scrotum, or around the anus. For men, there’s no reliable test that can find the virus responsible for genital warts. You’ll need to ask your doctor for an exam or get regular exams.

In both men and women, genital warts can also show up on the lips, mouth, tongue, and throat.

See your doctor right away if you or your partner develops bumps or warts in the genital area or if:

  • You have an abnormal discharge from your vagina or penis
  • You have burning, pain, or bleeding when urinating or during sex
  • Your partner is diagnosed with genital warts or is having some of the symptoms
  • Your child has genital warts

Your doctor will ask a number of questions, such as:

  • Do you practice safe sex?
  • Do you have multiple partners?
  • Have you or your partner been tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
  • Are you having any symptoms?
  • Are you pregnant or planning to get pregnant?

Your doctor will examine you or take a biopsy (a sample of the wart) to see if you have genital warts. They might draw a blood sample to test for HIV and syphilis. Depending on the results, they may also refer you to a specialist for further testing.