Genital warts

Genital warts are the result of a viral skin infection caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).

  • Genital warts are very common.
  • You can get genital warts by having sex (vaginal, anal and oral) or by sharing sex toys with someone who has the infection.
  • They can be passed from person to person through skin to skin contact.
  • They are usually painless and do not pose a serious threat to health.
  • It is still possible to pass on genital warts if they are not visible.


  • Most people who have an HPV infection will not develop any visible warts.
  • 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.
  • Warts are usually painless.

Getting tested

Genital warts can usually be diagnosed with a simple examination, sometimes using a magnifying glass.

You may be advised to have other areas of your genital skin examined – for example, inside the vagina or around your anus.

How are genital warts treated?

Treatment depends on the type of warts you have and where they are located. You do not need treatment if they are not visible.

There are two main types of treatment for genital warts.

  • Applying a cream, lotion or chemical to the warts (topical treatment)
  • Destroying the warts by freezing, heating or removing them (physical ablation).

For some people, treatment can take several months to remove the warts.

You may be advised to avoid perfumed soap, bath bubbles or lotions while you are having treatment for warts as these can sometimes irritate the skin.

Protecting myself and others

  • Wear a condom when having vaginal, anal or oral sex.
  • Condoms do not offer 100 per cent protection.
  • Avoid using sex toys.

Do you have symptoms or want to be tested?

If you have symptoms you should get yourself tested to avoid infection developing and from transferring it to someone else.

Call 0300 008 5522 to book an appointment at one of our clinics.

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