Genital warts usually appear within two to three weeks of a person becoming infected with human papilloma virus (HPV). In some cases, warts can take up to a year after infection to develop but the virus can still be passed on both before and after the warts have grown.
Symptoms and signs
- The patient may have a history of sexual intercourse (either vaginal, oral or anal) with an infected partner.
- In females, the genital warts initially feel like small and gritty lumps, which then slowly grow and become larger.
- In males, the warts are similar to those that occur on the hands and are firm with a raised and rough surface.
- There may be single warts or a cluster of joined together warts that start to resemble a cauliflower shape
- The warts are usually painless but may cause itching and irritation, particularly if they occur around the anus.
- Sometimes, the warts bleed, especially during sexual intercourse. People with genital warts are advised not to have sexual intercourse until their warts are healed due to the high likelihood of passing the infection to the non-infected partner.
- Warts that occur near the urethra can disrupt the normal flow of urine.
- In women, the warts mainly occur around the vulva (in two thirds of the cases). Only in around one third of cases do the warts occur inside the vagina. Warts may also be seen in the area between the vagina and anus in a third of cases or around the anus in a quarter of cases. Warts on the cervix or at the urethral opening are less common.
- In men, the warts occur on the shaft of the penis, under the foreskin in around half of cases. The warts occur around the anus in about one third of cases. Less commonly, the warts appear on the head of the penis, inside the urethra, between the anus and scrotum, on the scrotum or under the foreskin.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc