Genital warts are characterised as very small, fleshy lumps prominent on the area around the vagina, penis and anus. They are classed as a STI due to the fact they are passed on through sexual activity, including oral, vaginal, and anal sex.
Both women and men can be infected, but women are more vulnerable to complications. The warts themselves are commonly so small they can go undetected, especially if they have appeared deep inside the vagina, or inside the urethra in men.
The warts can take anywhere from around two weeks to several months to show up after a person has been infected. Bumps are usually itchy but cause no pain, and as such, are not particularly harmful to the person.
The top of the growths may be smooth to the touch or a little bump, and resemble a cauliflower. A single wart could appear or several could appear as a cluster.
Genital warts are caused by certain low-risk strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). These differ from the high-risk strains that can eventually cause cervical dysplasia and cancer.
Sexually active men and women are vulnerable to complications of HPV, including genital warts. HPV may be more dangerous for women because some types of the infection can also cause cancer of the cervix and vulva.
Genital warts affect the moist tissues of the genital area. They often appear as small, flesh-colored bumps or have a cauliflower-like appearance to them, possibly feeling smooth or slightly bumpy to the touch. In some cases though, the warts are too small to be visible to the naked eye.
They may occur as a single wart, or as a cluster of warts.
Genital warts on males may appear on the following areas:
- Around or inside the anus.
Genital warts on females may appear on the following areas:
- Inside of the vagina or anus.
- Outside of the vagina or anus.
- On the cervix.
It is important to remember that genital warts can actually appear on other areas of the body, such as on the mouth, lips, tongue, or throat of a person who has engaged in oral sex with a person who has human papillomavirus (HPV).
Genital warts may not be dangerous, but they can prove bothersome with the itchiness associated with them and also can be passed onto others through sexual activity.
There are no over-the-counter products available to treat genital warts, but you can buy genital wart cream or liquids that you can usually apply to the warts yourself a few times a week for several weeks, once you have received the prescribed medication from us. If you choose not to buy the medication from us, you will need to go to the GUM clinic.
Treatment can both stop the spread of the infection and provide relief from the discomfort caused by the itchiness of the warts.
It is important to remember that you can prevent passing genital warts on to other people by the use of a condom every time you have sex, whether vaginal, oral or anal – however if the virus is present within skin not covered by the condom, it can still be passed on. You should also refrain from sex during the treatment period for genital warts.
Larger sized genital warts that may for example be blocking passages, could require surgery by a trained professional. They could freeze the wart(s), cut them off, or use a laser.