Genital warts are a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). They can appear as small bumps the color of meat or having a cauliflower-like appearance, and in some cases, they may be too small to be visible. The recurrence rate of genital warts is determined by a variety of factors, such as the patient's overall health and immune system, previous HPV vaccinations, the specific strain of HPV, the number of sexual partners, condom use, and viral load. Additionally, smoking has been linked to an increased risk of getting genital warts.
The best way to avoid spreading genital warts is to use a condom every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. However, condoms do not provide complete protection against genital warts. If you think you may have genital warts, it is important to get tested by a healthcare provider. Couples should be seen together to detect genital warts and test for other STDs.
The HPV vaccine offered to girls and boys in the United Kingdom can protect against certain types of HPV, including those that cause genital warts and certain types of cancer. It is important to share this information with your sexual partners if you know that you have genital warts and HPV. An estimated 400,000 people get genital warts every year. Genital warts on the cervix or inside the vagina can cause changes in the cervix (dysplasia) that can lead to cervical cancer.
Limiting the number of sexual partners and getting vaccinated are two effective ways to prevent genital warts. A vaccine is available to protect against types of HPV infections that pose a high risk of genital warts and cervical cancer. Genital warts can also develop in the mouth or throat of a person who has had oral sexual contact with an infected person. Healthcare providers may refer to genital warts as condyloma; STIs are also called sexually transmitted infections (STIs).