What are the symptoms of genital warts?
Genital warts appear as growths which are rough and skin-coloured. They can be bumpy and have the shape of a cauliflower, but sometimes they are flat. Their size varies and can change over time. Sometimes they can appear as a single flesh coloured bump; other times they can be a cluster. They can also be too small to be seen.
For those who are assigned male at birth, genital warts can appear on the:
- inside or around the anus, even if you did not have anal sex
- upper thighs
For those assigned female at birth, genital warts can appear:
- on the outside on the vagina or anus
- inside of the vagina or anus
- on the cervix
- on the upper thighs
In some cases, they can cause:
- a burning sensation
- mild bleeding
- itching or irritation
- vaginal discharge
They can also appear on the lips, tongue, throat, or mouth after oral sex with someone who has HPV.
How long do genital warts take to appear?
Genital warts can develop within weeks of infection, but often they take months or years to appear. If you have multiple sexual partners, or change partners, this can make it difficult to know where you got the infection from.
You can also be infected with HPV and have no genital warts, or they may not be visible. In this case, you could potentially infect others without knowing.
How long do genital warts last?
It is different for each person. However, for nearly a third of people, they tend to go away in six months.
It is important you get treatment for genital warts, and do not just wait for them to go away, as they can cause further medical problems.
Are there any complications with genital warts?
Genital warts could lead to problems passing urine if these affect your urethra, the tube that transports urine from your bladder.
Some types of HPV can increase your risk of cancer, but the types of HPV that most commonly cause genital warts are different to these. About 90% of genital warts are caused by HPV 6 and HPV 11, which are non-oncogenic (non-cancer causing).
Genital warts and pregnancy
An outbreak of genital warts whilst pregnant can lead to changes in hormones which cause the warts to bleed, enlarge, or multiply.
In rare cases, genital warts can cause pregnancy complications, including:
- a wart blocking the birth canal, possibly meaning delivery via caesarean section
- in extremely rare cases, HPV passes onto the baby, causing warts to form inside the baby’s airways which require surgery
When should I talk to my doctor about genital warts?
You should talk to your doctor if you have:
- one or more growths or lumps around your anus, vagina, or penis, even if they are not painful
- had sexual contact with someone who has genital warts, even if you don’t have any symptoms
- a change to the flow of your urine, such as going sideways