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Genital warts

Find out more about genital warts, symptoms and treatment options.

Genital warts are a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can be passed on through vaginal or anal sex. They can also be passed on by sharing sex toys and, rarely, by oral sex.

Even when there are no visible warts, the genital warts virus can still be passed on. Many people who have the virus with no symptoms can still pass it on.

If you think you have genital warts, it’s important to act responsibly and notify your sexual partner(s). They will also need to be tested, as they may have genital warts too and not yet know it.

You could have the infection for weeks or months before any symptoms appear, which is why it’s important to visit a sexual health clinic for regular sexual health checks.

David John Griffiths, Consultant Gynaecologist at Circle Health Group’s The Ridgeway Hospital, says “Genital warts are usually spread by skin-to-skin contact. You don’t necessarily have to have penetrative sex to catch warts – like herpes. For example, you can get mouth herpes from genital herpes.”

David’s advice for those who are worried about getting genital warts is to: “Wear condoms.” He adds: “Some sensible couples go for a health check before they start having sex.”

Genital warts are caused by a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). There are many types of HPV and genital warts tend to be passed on via skin-to-skin contact, including via vaginal or anal sex. You can not get genital warts by kissing or sharing things like towels, crockery or toilet seats.

The HPV virus can stay in your skin, which means warts can develop again in the future if they are not treated properly. While genital warts may go away on their own without treatment, this may take months, and you will still be able to pass the virus on.

The HPV vaccine (which is offered to girls and boys aged between 12 and 13 in England) can help protect against genital warts and cervical cancer. The vaccine is also offered to men (up to the age of 45) who have sex with men.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, visit a sexual health clinic (you can often turn up on the day and wait for an appointment) or make an appointment with your GP:

  • Painless growths or lumps around your vagina, penis or anus
  • Bleeding or itching from your genitals or anus
  • A change to your normal flow of pee

If your sexual partner has genital warts, you should also visit a sexual health clinic to get checked out – even if you don’t yet have any symptoms. If they haven’t already, they should visit a sexual health clinic also.

Urgent advice: get help from 111 now if…

If you suspect you have genital warts, you should call your doctor or visit a sexual health clinic in the first instance. If you want some advice about your condition and it’s outside of your doctor’s surgery’s normal hours, you can ring 111.

When might genital warts be considered a medical emergency?

“Warts don’t cause emergencies, but they can be uncomfortable,” says Consultant Gynaecologist, David. “They look unsightly and make people feel unclean, and they can sometimes change to pre-cancer cells.

“Sometimes, they are not warts at all, but pre-cancer cells. So, if in doubt or if you are concerned, get checked.”

If you’ve decided to pursue private treatment at Circle Health Group, don’t be worried about visiting a specialist about genital warts; our team regularly sees patients with symptoms like yours.

In the first instance, “See the practice nurse or go to the local GU clinic”, says David. “They see genital warts all the time, and it’s always best to get assessed and treated as you don’t want to pass the warts on.”

When you visit us here at Circle Health Group, our friendly consultant will ask you about your symptoms and your sexual partners. He or she will look at the bumps around your genitals and anus; this may be done with a magnifying glass.

If you have genital warts inside your vagina, anus or urethra, our specialist may also need to take a look at these.

Do not be embarrassed about having genital warts. While they may be frustrating, they are a relatively common issue and one which our Consultant Gynaecologist sees regularly here at Circle Health Group.

There are several treatment options available to you, and surgery isn’t always required. Instead, you may be prescribed a cream or liquid, which you can apply yourself at home.

Surgery may be recommended if your genital warts are severe – and the warts will be cut, burned or lasered away. Risks include irritation or scarring, and you may find the procedure a little painful.

Freezing genital warts is also an option, and sometimes this – and other treatments – may need to be repeated several times. Again, try not to worry about the possibility of treatment or surgery; everything will be explained to you thoroughly, so you can make the best decision for you and your health.

If you pay for your genital warts treatment yourself, you may get faster access to the healthcare you need.

We offer more information on the different ways to pay – including using your medical insurance and paying for yourself (you can spread the cost over 12 months) – here on the site.

A type of sexually transmitted disease (STD), genital warts can be caused by certain types of the human papillomavirus (HPV).

While genital warts can cause discomfort, they are not cancerous and do not lead to other health problems.

Have a query or two about genital warts? You may find the answer below.

What do genital warts look like?

Showing up on your vulva, vagina, cervix, penis, scrotum, or anus, genital warts look like skin-coloured or whitish bumps. They may look like small pieces of cauliflower – and you may have just one or multiple gentle warts, which can be large or small.

They may be itchy, too, but most of the time they shouldn’t cause any pain.

Will genital warts go away?

With the right treatment, you can get rid of genital warts smoothly and quickly. While they may go away on their own, without medical intervention, this may take a while and you will still be able to pass on genital warts to your sexual partner(s) in the meantime.

Are genital warts dangerous?

Genital warts are a relatively common condition – and while they can certainly be annoying, they are not dangerous.

How long do genital warts take to show?

Symptoms may appear up to three months after infection (and usually no earlier than three weeks after infection). However, it may take many years for symptoms to show up after infection – and you may still be able to spread the virus even if you are not aware you have it.

What colour are genital warts?

Genital warts are white/skin-coloured.

What if I have genital warts while pregnant?

It’s important to tell your midwife or GP if you are pregnant (or think you’re pregnant) and you have genital warts or you think that you have them.

Genital warts can grow and multiply during pregnancy. They also may appear for the first time or come back after a long time of not being there.

They can, however, be treated safely during pregnancy, although some treatments should be avoided.

If your genital warts are very big, they may need to be removed to avoid problems during birth. Genital warts can also be passed to the baby during birth, although this is rare. The HPV virus (the virus responsible for genital warts) can cause infection in the baby’s throat or genitals.

Can genital warts cause miscarriage?

Genital warts haven’t been shown to increase the risk of miscarriage or problems with delivery. Very rarely, though, they can be passed onto your baby. If this happens, your baby may develop warts in their mouth or throat – and you may notice this several weeks after birth.

Chat to your doctor or midwife if you think you have genital warts and you are pregnant, or if you think your baby has signs of genital warts.

Can I have sex with genital warts?

You should avoid sex while your genital warts are being treated. If you do have sex, however, make sure the warts are covered with a condom; even if your warts have gone, you could take extra precautions and cover the area with a condom.

Do genital warts grow back?

In some cases, genital warts may clear up on their own, with the immune system clearing them within a few months. However, it’s always wise to undergo treatment, so you can minimise your risk of the warts coming back.

How do doctors remove genital warts?

Genital warts can be removed in several ways; the type of treatment you will be offered by your doctor or here at Circle Health Group will depend on what the warts look like and where they are.

Treatment for genital warts can involve using a cream or liquid, which you will apply to the warts a few times a week for several weeks. This kind of treatment may cause pain, irritation or a burning sensation.

For those who opt to have surgery to remove genital warts, a doctor or nurse will cut, burn or use a laser to remove then. Causing pain, irritation or scarring, this treatment may also be advised for more severe genital warts.

Freezing genital warts is also an option – and this is performed by a doctor or nurse. In some cases, you may have to undergo treatment several times; treatment can take weeks or months and the warts may still come back, or the treatment might not work for you.

Is there a home remedy for genital warts?

Treating genital warts on your penis, vagina or anus yourself is not advisable. Instead, visit a medical professional who will suggest a suitable genital warts treatment for you. He or she may remove the warts by freezing them off or by undergoing surgery.

They may also prescribe a cream, which you can use yourself at home.

What is the difference between genital warts and herpes?

As they both appear in the genital area, genital warts and herpes can be hard to distinguish from one another. Genital warts are small, skin-coloured bumps, while herpes sores may look like open wounds or blisters.

If you think you have either genital warts or herpes, visit your sexual health clinic or call your GP for an appointment, as both genital warts and herpes can be passed on through skin-to-skin contact.

How long do genital warts last?

Your genital warts may disappear without treatment, but this can take a few months to two years – and even if your genital warts go, you may still have the virus. This is another reason why it’s important to visit a medical professional, who will suggest the best treatment for you and help you get rid of your genital warts safely and effectively.

Genital warts: booking a consultation at Circle Health Group

Want to book an appointment at Circle Health Group to discuss your concerns about genital warts? Simply find a hospital in your area and allow our friendly and professional consultants to help put your mind at ease.