PUBLIC HEALTH FACT SHEET
What are genital warts?
Genital warts are a viral, sexually transmitted disease (STD). They are caused by several types of the human papilloma virus (HPV). Most sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives.
How is it spread?
Genital warts are spread during oral, anal or vaginal sex or other skin-to-skin contact with someone who has genital warts. Genital warts can also be spread from one place to another on the same person’s body (auto-inoculation).
How is it treated?
There are several types of treatments available for genital warts. All of them remove the visible warts, but the virus will remain in the body and the person may continue to have recurrences. The most common form of treatment is a health care professional applying salicylic to the affected area. Cryotherapy (freezing of the area) and laser therapy are also effective treatment options.
How can we prevent genital warts?
- If you choose to have sex, be prepared. Have condoms with a water-based lubricant on hand and use a new condom every time you have sex.
- Limit the number of sexual partners.
- If you have been diagnosed with genital warts, tell anyone you have had sex with that they should consider being examined for genital warts.
- Have regular exams if you are sexually active. If you think you have genital warts, get checked.
- A pap smear is an excellent test to look for HPV changes on the cervix. Having annual pap smears can reduce the long-term complications associated with HPV.
- A vaccine is available to prevent infection from 4 of the most common types of HPV. It is available for both females and males, 9-26 years of age.
SYMPTOMS OF GENITAL WARTS
A person with this disease may have:
- Small bumps, with an irregular, “cauliflower-like” surface
- Itching, pain, or even bleeding of bumps