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Genital Warts

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Updated February 03, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Genital Warts

This picture of genital warts is from a patient experiencing an outbreak of genital warts caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV).

Photo courtesy of the CDC/Dr. Wiesner
Genital warts are one of the many diseases caused by HPV. Although the best known HPV illness is cervical cancer, it can also cause sexually-transmitted throat cancers, penile cancer and other infections in both women and men -- including genital warts.

Symptoms of Genital Warts

Genital warts are soft growths in the genital area ). They tend to be either white or flesh-colored and can appear either singly or in large batches. The growths can be either raised or flat. Other symptoms of genital warts include itching, increased discharge, bleeding after sex, and a feeling of moisture in the area of the warts.

Treatment of Genital Warts

Genital warts should only be treated by your doctor. Under no circumstances should you use over-the-counter wart treatments to try to remove genital warts. Doctors have a variety of choices for treating genital warts, including cryotherapy and various topical drugs. However, it is important to know that treating the symptoms does not remove the virus, and you may still be infectious after your warts are gone. Recurrences of genital warts are not uncommon.

Prevention of Genital Warts

Although the only surefire way to avoid genital warts is to abstain from sexual intercourse, particularly since HPV infection can be free of symptoms and is not tested for during STD screenings, there are also other steps you can take to reduce your risk. Gardasil, an HPV vaccine, protects against two of the most common types of wart-causing HPV. (More than 100 types of HPV have been identified, not all of which are sexually transmitted.) Reliably using the male or female condom may also reduce your risk, but just using condoms will not eliminate it. HPV spreads from skin-to-skin contact, and not all infected skin will necessarily be covered by a prophylactic.

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