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Genital warts are skin growths in the groin, genital, or anal areas. They can be different sizes and shapes. Some look like flat white patches, and others are bumpy, like tiny bunches of cauliflower. Sometimes you can't see the warts at all.
Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Over 100 types of HPV have been found. Some types cause genital warts. Types 6 and 11 cause most genital warts.
HPV and genital warts can be spread through sex or skin-to-skin genital contact with someone who has the virus. The virus can be spread to or from the genitals, anus, mouth, or throat during sexual activities. You can spread the virus even if you don't have symptoms.
Genital warts can be different sizes and shapes. They may be large, or they may be too small to be seen. They may appear alone or in groups. Warts may look like tiny bunches of cauliflower or like flat, white areas that are very hard to see.
Visible warts appear only during active infection.
Genital warts may appear in the groin, on and around the genitals, in the urethra, or in the rectum or anus.
A doctor checks for genital warts by looking closely at the genital and anal areas. The doctor may ask you questions about your symptoms and risk factors. Risk factors are things that make you more likely to get an infection. Sometimes the doctor takes a sample of tissue from a wart for testing.
If you have an abnormal Pap test, your sample may be tested for high-risk types of HPV. HPV testing is not done as part of a regular Pap test in Alberta.
There are ways to treat genital warts. But the warts may come back because treatment doesn't kill the HPV infection that causes them.
Talk to your doctor if you want to treat visible genital warts. The warts usually go away with no treatment, but they may also spread. Some people decide to treat them because of the symptoms or because of how the warts look. But if you don't have symptoms and are not worried about how the warts look, you can wait and see if they go away.
If you decide to treat genital warts, talk to your doctor. There are medicines that you or your doctor can put on the warts. Or your doctor can remove them with lasers or surgery or by freezing them off.
Surgery to remove genital warts may be done when:
Here are some ways to help prevent STIs.
Vaccines are available for some STIs, such as HPV. Ask your doctor for more information.
Adaptation Date: 8/3/2022
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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