What Are Genital Warts?

  Genital Warts
Genital warts: The warts appear in various sizes and shapes.

Genital warts or condylomata acuminata are warts found in the genital area. Warts can appear in a group, or it can be a single wart. These warts can be contracted by getting HPV. When someone with the human papillomavirus is intimate with someone else, they can pass on the virus and cause genital warts.

HPV is one of the more common sexually transmitted infections. A person could have genital warts and not know it because they aren’t visible. They could be spreading it and not even know.

There are many different types of HPV, but only some can cause genital warts. There are some variations of the infection that causes cancer. Some HPV types can cause cervical, anal, mouth, and throat cancer. It can even cause cancer of the penis. It is also possible to get more than one type of HPV.

Genital warts can be treated in quite a few ways, but they can be hard to remove completely. It may take several visits to a dermatologist to take care of it.

Images used with permission of Dermatology DDxDeck, card #55. (Habif TP, Campbell JL, Chapman, MS et al. Dermatology DDxDeck. 2006; Mosby Elsevier.)

  Genital Warts

Genital warts: The warts appear in various sizes and shapes.

Genital warts: Signs and symptoms

Genital warts can show up in a variety of shapes and sizes. Genital warts can appear in a large group or only a small cluster.

The common visible signs of genital warts are:

  • Skin colored bumps that are small and scattered.
  • A group of bumps that resemble a cauliflower.
  • Genital growths. These growths can be flat, raised, smooth, or rough.

You can have genital warts and not feel any symptoms, but the warts may itch, hurt, bleed or burn.
Genital warts may be found in the following areas:

For Females

  • Vulva
  • Vagina
  • Cervix
  • Groin

For Males

  • Penis
  • Scrotum
  • Thigh
  • Groin

In Both Males and Females

  • After having oral sex with a person with HPV genital warts can appear in the throat and mouth.
  • After anal sex with a person infected with HPV it genital warts can appear in or around the anus.

Images used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.

Genital warts: Who gets and causes

Who gets genital warts?

If a person has sex with someone with the human papillomavirus, they can get genital warts. Most people who have had sex have had a type of HPV. It is common in people under the age of thirty.

Just because a person has an HPV infection doesn’t mean that they will get genital warts. If you have a strong immune system, it can fight the virus, which is why a lot of people with HPV don’t get genital warts. Most people’s bodies get rid of the virus after a few years. When this happens, that person is no longer contagious.

If a person has a weak immune system, they may not be able to fight the virus. If the body can not fight the infection, then most likely genital warts will grow. Many things can weaken a person’s immune system, such as cancer and AIDS. Some medicines can weaken an immune system too. A medication given to people who have had organ transplants is one of the medications that can lower the immune system. This medication prevents their bodies from rejecting the new organ.

For some unknown reason, research has shown people who smoke have a greater risk of developing genital warts.
Genital warts can happen in children, albeit rare, it can happen. There have been some instances of a mother with HPV passing the virus to their child during childbirth. The baby may not be born with visible warts. Genital warts may show up later. If a child has genital warts, it can also be a sign of sexual abuse.

What causes genital warts?

A person can can get genital warts three ways:

  • Vaginal, oral or anal sex
  • contact with an infected person’s genitals
  • a mother can infect their baby during childbirth

Genital warts may not appear right away. It could be anywhere from a few weeks or a couple of months before you see them.

Genital warts: Diagnosis and treatment

How do dermatologists diagnose genital warts?

Genital warts can be embarrassing to talk about. Most people don’t want to talk about strange growths in their private parts. A dermatologist can tell you what the growths are and speak with you about treatments.

To diagnose genital warts, a dermatologist will examine them. If possible, the dermatologist may remove the wart or take a piece of it and send it to the lab. After the lab runs a test on the wart, genital warts can be confirmed.

How do dermatologists treat genital warts?

Although some genital warts will go away without treatment, removing the warts have certain benefits:
Reduces risk of spreading HPV.

  • Helps soothe pain and itching.
  • Will tell you if the warts are cancer or not.
  • Some warts may be hard to clean, removing them will help with that.

If you decide you want to treat your genital warts instead of letting them go away on their own, you should see a dermatologist. Buying over-the-counter wart medicine is not a good idea. These medicines are for different kinds of warts and will not help you. Genital warts need a different type of treatment.

There are many different treatments for genital warts. A dermatologist will look at where the warts are, your health, and how many warts you have before deciding on the correct treatment.

The treatment may consist of a procedure in your dermatologist’s office or a medicine you can apply to your warts. The following will explain the different treatment options for genital warts:


More times than not, a dermatologist will prescribe a medicine that you will then apply to your genital warts at home. These medicines include:

  • Podofilox will stop wart cells from growing and is used for external warts.
  • Imiquimod will help boosts your immune system to help fight HPV.
  • Green tea extract ointment is used for warts around the anus and external warts.


The procedures can be performed by a dermatologist during an office visit.

  • Cryosurgery where the warts are frozen off with liquid nitrogen.
  • Excision where the warts are cut out.
  • Electrocautery where the warts are destroyed by electric current.
  • Laser treatment where the warts are destroyed with a laser light.

Sometimes it will take more than one visit to the dermatologist before all warts are gone. If you are looking for genital warts removal NYC, seek a genital dermatologist.

Other treatments: Medicine may be injected into the genital warts, and this option is usually used when all else fails. An antiviral medication called Interferon may be injected into the genital warts.


While treatment may get rid of the visible warts, the virus may still be in your body. If the virus is still inside of you, genital warts can return at any time.

And if you still have the virus, then you can still spread it through sex even if you don’t have any genital warts. Wearing a condom during sex reduces the risk of spreading HPV.

Genital warts: Tips for managing


There are certain things you can do to reduce your risk of contracting HPV and genital warts: get the vaccine. There are two HPV vaccines, and if you are between the ages of 9 and 26, you may be able to get one.

One of the HPV vaccines is a quadrivalent, which means it can protect you against 4 types of HPV. It is for both males and females aged 9 through 26. This vaccine can help prevent the types of HPV that cause genital warts. For a person to be fully vaccinated, they need to get three shots. And for the vaccine to be effective, you should get all three vaccine shots before the first time you have sex.

HPV can cause cervical cancer in women, and getting the HPV vaccine can add a layer of protection again most types of cervical cancer.

  • While condoms don’t always prevent the spread of HPV, they do lower your risk of catching it. Using a latex condom during sex may reduce the risk of catching HPV, but condoms don’t cover the genital area completely.
  • Having many sexual partners increases your risk of catching HPV, so limit the number of people you have sex with. The only sure way to not get HPV is not to take part in any sexual activity.
  • Don’t smoke. According to research, smokers are at a much higher risk of getting genital warts than people who don’t smoke.

Coping with genital warts

Dermatologists recommend that if you have or at some point had genital warts, you should do the following:

  • Let your sexual partners know you have genital warts so they can go to the doctor.
  • Use a condom during all sexual activity. But condoms will not completely stop the spread of HPV because they don’t cover the genital area 100%
  • Women who have had genital warts should get Pap tests as often as your doctor recommends. Pap tests are the best ways to find any problems in your cervix early. These tests can catch cervical cancer early. If you have an unusual Pap smear, let your doctor know immediately.

If you are looking for genital wart removal NYC, seek a genital dermatologist.

Are you looking for genital warts treatments?

Call Downtown Dermatology at 212-233-2995 to make an appointment!

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