What are genital warts?

Genital warts are growths that occur on the genitals  and anus.  They may appear skin colored, pinkish, tan, or brown and are often raised and soft.  In the medical field, we often refer to them as condyloma or condyloma acuminata.  These condyloma (although colloquially referred to as genital warts), can occur on other areas as well (e.g. around the mouth/lips, inside the mouth, throat, etc.)

What causes genital warts? Genital warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV).  HPV types 6 and 11 cause the vast majority of genital warts.

How do you get genital warts?  Genital warts are considered a sexually transmitted disease.  The virus is spread through close contact with an infected individual.

If you have genital warts, can you spread them to someone else? Yes, as above, the virus is spread via skin to skin contact.  Thus, you can continue to spread it to sexual partners.  Although barrier protection is not perfect, it can decrease the likelihood of transmission.

If you have genital warts, does that mean you will have cancer?  Recently, there has been a lot of buzz about HPV and cancer.  The media reported that Michael Douglas said his throat cancer was caused by the HPV virus.  There’s some controversy over what was said exactly, but recall that he talked about how oral sex could lead to transmission of HPV virus.

Anyways, just because you have genital warts does NOT mean you will get cancer.  HPV 6 and 11 which we said is linked to the majority of genital warts is less linked to  cancer.

How do you treat genital warts? There are several types of different treatments.  Cryotherapy involves freezing the wart, often with liquid nitrogen.  The lesions may also be burned or treated with a laser. Sometimes they may be cut off with a scalpel or scissors and other times they may be treated with a liquid or cream.  Injections have also been used for genital warts.  Find a physician who has experience treating genital warts.


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