What causes genital warts?

14th October 2019

Genital warts is a sexually transmitted infection that is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) and passed from one person to another through mainly vaginal and anal sex but also occasionally oral sex too.

The mode of transmission is sex but the cause itself is the HPV virus, which is actually the most common sexually transmitted infection of them all. However, HPV does not always cause genital warts and many people have the virus without even knowing about it. 

Technically speaking, genital warts is a complication of the human papillomavirus (HPV). So while genital warts will always equal HPV, HPV will not always equal genital warts. Another example of a complication of HPV is cancer of the cervix or vulva in women, which is why teenage girls are now vaccinated against the virus.

All sexually active men and women can be at risk of contracting HPV, however it’s women who are more vulnerable to complications (such as genital warts and cancer) which is why it’s important to use protection when having sex and to regularly get checked for STI’s at your local sexual health clinic or using a self testing kit at home.

Symptoms of genital warts

Unlike many other STI’s (such as Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea), genital warts is usually noticeable and symptoms can normally be seen to the human eye. However, this is not always the case so it’s important to be aware of all the symptoms.

If genital warts are visible then you’ll notice one or more small lumps around the genitals. On men, these appear on the penis, scrotum, groin, thighs and in or around the anus and on women, these appear in or around the vagina or anus and also on the cervix.

The lumps are normally painless and skin-coloured (or a tiny bit darker). The top of the warts could be bumpy like a cauliflower, and they can appear in clusters (but you may just have one).

Because the warts can grow internally in the body and because they can be very small, you may not always be able to see them. You should look out for any unusual discharge, bleeding, itching or burning, as well as any changes to your urine flow (larger internal warts can make this go sideways, for example).

Who’s at risk of genital warts?

Anyone who is sexually active could potentially contract the human papillomavirus However, genital warts is more common for those who are under the age of 30 or have a weakened immune system. Smoking also puts you at higher risk so if you do smoke, you may want to consider quitting options (for this and numerous other health reasons).

How to treat genital warts

Once you have been diagnosed with genital warts, you will want to explore treatment options. As long as the case is uncomplicated, treatment should be fairly simple. Effective genital wart treatments include Condyline, Aldara and Warticon. While Aldara may take 4-12 weeks to clear the warts, Condyline only requires 3 days of treatment. You can buy all of the mentioned effective genital wart treatments at UK Meds.

If your warts are very severe or do not go away after treatment then you may need to look into other options such as surgery, freezing or laser treatments. It’s important to note that you should always follow the advice of a medical professional and do not attempt to treat genital warts using over-the-counter wart treatments.

However, these medications are designed to treat the warts themselves; they do not clear the HPV virus from the body. Even after treating the warts, HPV can linger in the body and could cause further outbreaks of genital warts further down the line. For this reason, it’s important to practice safe sex to avoid passing the virus onto any other sexual partners.