Genital Warts

Posted September 5, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 3 min read

Genital warts are a type of sexually transmitted disease (STD). The disease causes warts (small bumps or growth ) to form in and around the genitals and rectum. Certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) cause genital warts.

Causes of Genital Warts

Certain types of HPV cause this STD. Genital warts spread through skin-to-skin contact during sex.

A different virus causes warts on your hands and feet. You can’t get genital warts by touching yourself or someone else with a hand or foot that has warts.

Genital warts spread through:

  • Intercourse, including anal, vaginal-penile and vaginal-vaginal.

  • Genital touching (skin-to-skin contact without ejaculation).

  • Giving oral sex to someone who has HPV or genital warts.

  • Receiving oral sex from someone who has HPV or who has genital warts on the mouth, lips or tongue.

Symptoms of Genital Warts

Warts look like rough, skin-colored growths. Genital warts often have a bumpy cauliflower look, but some are flat. Genital warts aren’t usually painful. Occasionally, they cause:

  • Mild bleeding.

  • Burning sensation.

  • Discomfort.

  • Genital itching or irritation.

Diagnosis of Genital Warts

Pelvic exam

A woman may get a Pap test as part of a pelvic exam to check for cervical changes caused by genital warts. Your provider may also perform a colposcopy to examine and biopsy the vagina and cervix.

Blood tests

Your provider may test for other STDs often associated with genital warts. These STDs include gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia.

Anal exam

Your provider uses a device called an anoscope to look inside the anus for warts.


Your provider may perform a biopsy (cutting out and removing a tiny piece, about the size of the tip of a pencil) when in doubt about diagnosis.

Complications of Genital Warts

  • Genital warts on the cervix or inside the vagina can cause cervical changes (dysplasia) that can lead to cervical cancer.

  • The warts cause these changes, not HPV.

  • There are other types of HPV that increase cancer risk.

  • The HPV strains that cause cancer are not the same ones that cause genital warts.

Treatment of Genital Warts


An electric current burns away warts.


During cryotherapy, your provider applies liquid nitrogen to freeze and destroy warts.

Laser treatment

A laser light destroys tiny blood vessels inside warts, cutting off their blood supply.

Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP)

With LEEP, your provider uses an electrically charged wire loop to remove warts. A provider may use this method to remove warts on a woman’s cervix.

Topical (skin) medicine

Once a week for several weeks, you apply a prescription chemical solution to the warts. The chemical causes blisters to form under the warts, stopping blood flow. In some cases, your provider may apply the solution.

Your provider applies the topical TCA solution in the office

Your provider may also provide a prescription for a topical medical when appropriate eg. Imiquimod ( Aldara) that patient self-administers at home for some weeks as directed.


Your provider may surgically cut out warts that are large or don’t respond to other treatments.

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