Genital warts are a type of sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). They usually appear as small, raised lesions on the genitals, but their appearance can vary. They can be flesh-colored, clear and pearlescent, or dark purple, gray, or brown. Research suggests that genital warts may be more common among young adult black men.
To reduce the risk of getting genital warts, people should use condoms during sexual activity, limit their sexual partners, and get vaccinated against HPV. Genital warts may not be visible to the human eye; they can be very small and skin-colored or slightly darker. The top of the bumps may look like a cauliflower and may feel smooth or slightly uneven to the touch. Treatment for genital warts may include topical medications or medical procedures to remove them. Genital warts can also form on other mucosal surfaces, such as the inside of the nose, mouth and throat.
They are usually transmitted during intimate sexual contact. Untreated genital warts can eventually cause abnormal urine flow in men if they are present in the urethra. Periungual warts form in groups around the fingernails or toenails and can also spread below the nails. For women, a colposcopy may be performed to detect genital warts on the cervix that are too small to see with the naked eye, or to detect precancerous changes in the tissue of the cervix, vagina, or vulva. The types of HPV that cause genital warts are not related to cancer, but some other types of HPV that infect the same types of mucosal surfaces are related to cancer. About 90 percent of genital warts are caused by low-risk HPV types 6 and 11. Talking openly about your condition can help protect your partner from also getting an HPV infection and genital warts. 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 a person who has HPV. Common warts most commonly appear on the fingers, around the nails, and on the back of the hands.