Genital warts are most often caused by HPV 6 and 11. You might see warts around your anus, vagina, inside the vagina, urethra or in your anal canal, or even in your throat. A doctor will find the hard-to-reach places.
Warts (and skin changes) can occur on the genitals, but also on the cervix, vagina, anus, rectum and throat. These changes increase the risk of certain types of cancers. Some types of HPV can cause genital warts and cancer.
Symptoms of physical genital warts
- When they pop up, they start as very small, soft, moist pink or grey growths
- Once further developed, they may be flat, raised, single or a floret, or look like cauliflower
- Grow in clusters of irregular bumps
- May have stalks
- May cause burning pain
- They grow fast
- May itch or cause discomfort
Fast facts of genital warts
- They often don’t hurt
- You can carry HPV in your system but not have any warts
- HPV can be passed on via oral sex (less common), but is spread by direct skin-to-skin contact during vaginal or anal sex
- Transmission is by physical contact
- Warts might pop up weeks or months (or never) after contact with an infected person
- Infection may occur after direct contact with a visible wart or contact with genital skin where the virus is present.
Treating genital warts
Treatment for physical genital warts doesn’t rid you of the virus, just of the visible warts, though your immune system will usually get rid of the virus by itself over time unless you are immune compromised (such as in HIV or chronic illness).
Wart treatments from the pharmacy are not suitable for genital warts, so forget it. They will probably need to be frozen off using cryotherapy (liquid nitrogen/dry ice). You will likely need more than one treatment. Other treatments include podophyllotoxin, a lotion you use at home (not for pregnant women), or other creams or laser treatment.