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Genital Warts (Condylomata Acuminata)

Woman talking to healthcare provider.
Ask your healthcare provider about the HPV vaccine.

Genital warts or anogenital warts (condylomata acuminata) are caused by a virus that is often spread sexually. This virus is known as HPV (human papillomavirus). There are many different types of HPV.  Some types are more likely to cause warts, and some types can cause cancers of the cervix, penis, anus, or the head and neck. The warts may be tiny or in parts of the body that are hard to see. Rarely, warts can complicate childbirth, or lead to disease in babies born to women with genital warts.

Female and male latex condoms may help protect against genital warts. But condoms don’t cover all the areas that can get infected. That means condoms may not protect you completely.

What are the symptoms of genital warts?

Genital warts can be flat. Or they can be raised and look like tiny cauliflowers. They can grow on or around the penis, vagina, cervix, rectum, and even in the throat. You can have the virus for many months or even years before the warts appear. You can also have the virus and never get visible warts. Once warts form, they might be too small to be seen. That’s why you need regular exams by your healthcare provider. They can find tiny warts and test for HPV infection.

What is the treatment for genital warts?

Genital warts tend to grow with time. The smaller the warts are, the easier they are to remove. So don’t delay. Warts are most often removed with medicine. Sometimes they’re frozen off with liquid nitrogen. Warts may also be removed with heat, laser, or surgery. More than 1 treatment may be needed. Never try to treat genital warts yourself. Often warts need to be treated a few times as they tend to come back.

How are genital warts prevented?

To prevent genital warts, get vaccinated against HPV. VHA recommends the HPV vaccine for people up to age 26 who:

  • Have not been vaccinated

  • Have not completed the full 3 dose HPV vaccine series

The vaccine may also be offered to you between ages 27 to 45.

It's also important to know your partner’s sexual history. Someone may not have visible warts. But they can still spread the virus. Protect yourself by using latex condoms. And get regular health exams.

In women, regular Pap smears with HPV testing can find some strains of HPV and also find early signs of cervical cancer. VHA recommends the following for cervical cancer screening:

  • Women ages 21 to 29 of average risk should be screened every 3 years with cervical cytology alone 

  • Women ages 30 to 65 of average risk should be screened with any of the following 3 options:

    • Every 3 years with cervical cytology alone

    • Every 5 years with high-risk human papillomavirus (hrHPV) testing alone

    • Every 5 years with HrPV testing

Talk with your healthcare provider for more information about getting vaccinated for HPV or screened for cervical cancer.

For more information

CDC, 800-232-4636, www.cdc.gov/std

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 12/1/2019
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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