Information for Patients
Genital warts are a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The warts usually appear as a small bump or group of bumps in the genital area. They are flesh-colored and can be flat or look bumpy like cauliflower. Some genital warts are so small you cannot see them. In women, the warts usually occur in or around the vagina, on the cervix, or around the anus. In men, genital warts are less common. They may have warts on the tip of the penis, around the anus, or on the scrotum, thigh, or groin.
You can get genital warts during oral, vaginal, or anal sex with an infected partner. Correct usage of latex condoms greatly reduces, but does not completely eliminate, the risk of catching or spreading HPV. The most reliable way to avoid infection is to not have anal, vaginal, or oral sex. HPV vaccines may help prevent some of the HPV infections that cause genital warts.
Your health care provider usually diagnoses genital warts by seeing them. The warts might disappear on their own. If not, your health care provider can treat or remove them. HPV stays in your body even after treatment, so warts can come back.
Dept. of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health