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Genital Warts

Genital Warts

Genital warts are small fleshy lumps that can appear around a man's penis and testicles, a woman's vagina or around the anus.


Genital warts do not usually hurt, although symptoms can be:

  • Itching
  • A little bleeding from warts inside the vagina or anus
  • Growths on the head of the penis

How is it transmitted?

Genital warts are spread by close skin-to-skin contact. Through unprotected penetrative vaginal and anal sex, inserting fingers into vagina or anus, oral sex and fisting. If you have sex with someone who has genital warts you may get the virus that causes warts as well.

Warts cannot be caught from toilet seats or swimming pools. Also, as the warts on your hands are a different type to genital warts, they cannot be passed from someone else’s hand to your genitals.

Do you think you may have genital warts?

If you think you may have genital warts you can go to your nearest GUM clinic. You can visit your local or family GP.

By law, the sexual health clinic cannot tell anyone about your visit; these rules do not apply to your GP who can tell other people about your appointment.


The doctor or nurse can usually tell whether you have warts just by looking. However, they may have to check by putting some drops of liquid onto the lump. This does not hurt at all.


Occasionally warts go away by themselves, however, it is best not to rely on this but to get help from a doctor. The doctor may treat them by:

  • Painting them with a liquid
  • Freezing them with gas (which is a bit like dry ice)
  • Giving you cream which you can put on yourself at home

These methods will gradually remove the warts and are not painful.

Sometimes you may have to visit the doctor a number of times over a few months for treatment until the warts have gone.

The wart virus lives in the skin even after the warts have gone, so they may come back and need treating again. If you have HIV, warts can be harder to treat.

Protect yourself and others

Using a condom can help protect against getting genital warts. Remember also that a condom will help protect you against getting or passing on other sexually transmitted infections. Dental dams can also be used during oral sex and rimming for safer sex. You can order free safer sex packs from Trade here.

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