Genital Warts

Overview of Common STDs: Genital Warts



Genital warts can appear on the skin anywhere in the genital area. They appear cauliflower-like and are often white or flesh colored. There are over a hundred different types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which causes this STD, and at least thirty of them affect the genitals directly.

They are small fleshy growths, bumps or skin changes that appear on or around the genital or anal area. They are generally painless and don’t pose any real threat to overall health. Their effect is more psychological than anything else.

It’s estimated that 1 million people in the US contract genital warts each year. That’s 1 in 272 people, or 0.37 percent of the population.


It’s important to note that the incubation period for genital can be as long as a year. Therefore, if you are in a relationship and you get genital warts, it does not necessarily mean that your partner has been having sex with other people.

As a rule, genital warts don’t appear until at least two to four weeks after infection, and sometimes many months can pass before they become visible.

Main symptoms of this STD are:

  • Itchy growths on the penis or scrotum
  • Cauliflower like growths around the anus
  • Growths on the lips of the vulva, in the vagina or near the urethral opening

It’s easy to confuse genital warts with other conditions, or other STDs. For example, there are naturally occurring white lumps on the scrotum that are there to keep the skin healthy. Therefore anyone who suspects they may have contracted genital warts should be tested properly.

Transmission and Treatment

STDs are transmitted by intimate skin contact. Genital warts is no different. Even the slightest contact of a wart is enough to transmit enough bacteria to infect a person. Transmission isn’t restricted to penetrative sex, but can be any activity that would bring someone into contact with the bacteria from a wart.

Testing can be done by a physician or a sexual health clinic. Usually a physical inspection is enough to identify the condition. If symptoms are not immediately obvious, the physician may apply a liquid to the genital area which highlights any hidden warts.

Further testing can be done by taking a swab of the area and having it tested in a laboratory. Females can have this test performed alongside a smear (PAP) test.

Treatment of genital warts varies on the condition. It cannot be cured. However, the body is effective at fighting it off over time. It is possible that the body can eradicate visible signs of them, although the bacteria remains inside the body.

There are a number of treatments available to treat visible warts, such as:

  • Podophyllin resin and podofilox lotion. This is applied to the warts by a nurse or doctor and prevents cell growth.
  • Podopfilox lotion can be applied twice a day to remove the growths
  • Cryocautery or cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen to freeze persistent warts
  • Laser treatments are only used in the very worst cases to kill of the bacteria in persistent warts
  • Surgical excision is minor surgery to remove warts under a local anesthetic

Some treatments will be more suitable than others. The doctor or nurse will be able to discuss them in detail with patients when they are tested.

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