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Genital warts

Genital warts are small fleshy growths, bumps or skin changes that appear on or around the genital or anal area.

Genital warts are very common. In England, they are the second most common type of sexually transmitted infection (STI) after chlamydia.

Genital warts are the result of a viral skin infection caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). They are usually painless and do not pose a serious threat to health, but they can be unpleasant to look at.

How do they spread?

Genital warts can be spread during vaginal or anal sex and by sharing sex toys, but you don't need to have penetrative sex to pass the infection on because HPV is spread by skin-to-skin contact.

It can take months, or even years for warts to develop after infection with HPV. If you're in a relationship and you get genital warts, it does not necessarily mean your partner has been having sex with other people.

Although we always recommend condom use for protection against STIs, condoms do not provide complete protection against warts because it is possible for the skin around your genital area not to be covered and become infected.

Treating genital warts

If you think you have genital warts or you have bumps and changes in your genital area it’s best to make an appointment to attend one of our clinics so that we can see what is bothering you.

The treatment for genital warts depends on how many warts you have and where they are. Several treatments are available including liquids & creams and cryotherapy (freezing the warts) - our team often do this procedure so please don’t be embarrassed.

It’s really important that you receive the correct treatment. You shouldn’t use wart creams that are available over the counter because they are designed to treat warts on the hands or verrucas.

If you are diagnosed with genital warts, it’s recommended you don’t have sex, including anal and oral sex, until your genital warts have fully healed. This will help prevent you passing the infection onto others. It will also help speed up your recovery.

Will the warts come back?

Some people only ever get one episode of genital warts. For many others, the warts will come back weeks, months or even years later.

If you develop a new wart it’s not possible to say if these are a result of the original infection or a new infection with HPV.

Download the Family Planning Association genital warts leaflet.