Skip to main content Help with accessibility Skip to main navigation

Genital warts

Genital warts are small fleshy growths, bumps or skin changes that appear on or around the genital or anal area. They are caused by a viral skin infection called the human papilloma virus (HPV).

Symptoms

The genital warts HPV virus can be passed on whether or not there are visible warts. Most people who have HPV will not develop any visible warts. If genital warts do appear, it can be several weeks, months or even years after you first came into contact with the virus.

The warts may appear as small, fleshy growths, bumps or skin changes anywhere on the genitals or around the anus. In some cases, the warts are so small they are difficult to notice. A person can have a single wart or clusters of multiple warts that grow together to form a kind of "cauliflower" appearance. Usually warts are painless and do not pose a serious threat to health, but they can be sometimes be painful or cause irritation.

Diagnosing and testing

There is no specific test for genital warts.

If you think you have genital warts or you have bumps and changes in your genital area it’s best to visit one of our clinics . Genital warts can come and go even though the virus may still be present. It's important that you come to clinic whilst the warts are visible to allow us to diagnose the virus.

If you think you have any symptoms of genital warts, you should:

*Our walk-in and wait clinics offer limited slots and operate on a first come first served basis. When clinics are at full capacity, patients asking to be seen will be triaged and those who fit our urgent criteria will be a priority. At busy times we may need to signpost non-urgent cases to other clinics or recommend patients make an appointment for an alternative day or suggest a return visit.

Treatment

The treatment for genital warts depends on how many warts you have and where they are. You don't need treatment if there are no visible warts.

There are two main types of treatment:

  • applying a cream, lotion or chemical to the warts (topical treatment)
  • cryotherapy (freezing the warts) - our team regularly carry out this procedure, so please don’t be embarrassed

Prevention

You can prevent warts and other STIs passing on by:

  • using a condom every time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex – but if the virus is present in skin not protected by a condom, it can still be passed on
  • not having sex while you're having treatment for genital warts

More information

Visit NHS Choices - genital warts

Download Family Planning Association’s Looking after your sexual health - genital warts