Genital warts are a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). While they can be annoying, they are not dangerous and can be treated.
Genital wartsare not cancerous and do not cause cancer, although other types of HPV can lead to cervical cancer and other types of cancer. It is important for couples to be seen by a healthcare provider who can detect genital warts and test for other STDs.
Even if you use condoms or don't engage in penetrative sex, you can still get genital warts since a condom does not cover all of your genital skin. The doctor may apply a mild acid solution, called a white sorrel test, to the skin to help make genital warts more visible. Genital warts can also appear on the lips, mouth, tongue, or throat of a person who has had oral sexual contact with someone who has HPV. Talking openly about your condition can help protect your partner from also getting an HPV infection and genital warts.According to the National Cancer Institute, about 90 percent of genital warts are caused by low-risk HPV types 6 and 11. If you think you may have genital warts, you should schedule an appointment with your GP or contact local sexual health services. Using a condom every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex is the best way to avoid spreading genital warts to your partner. If you have a vulva, your doctor may also need to perform a pelvic exam, since genital warts can appear deep in the body.
The HPV vaccine offered to girls and boys in the United Kingdom to protect against cervical cancer also protects against genital warts.Although genital warts are not life-threatening, they can cause physical discomfort and emotional distress. It is important to seek medical attention if you think you may have genital warts so that you can receive treatment and protect your partner from getting infected as well. The best way to prevent genital warts is to practice safe sex and get vaccinated against HPV.