Genital Warts

There are many different strains of HPV. Some types of HPV cause visible genital warts.

What do genital warts look like?

Genital warts from HPV are growths or bumps on the skin around the genital area; vulva, vagina, cervix, penis, scrotum, urethra (urine opening), anus, groin or thigh. They may be raised warts or flat warts, single or multiple, small or large. Some HPV warts can cluster together forming a cauliflower-like shape.

The types of HPV linked to cervical cancer or other cancers are not the types associated with genital warts.

How do you get HPV or genital warts?

Subclinical HPV (invisible to the naked eye) and genital warts are usually spread by direct, skin-to-skin contact during vaginal or anal sex. It is also possible, but rare, to transmit them to the mouth by oral sex.

Perianal lesions are common in both sexes, including heterosexual men. Perianal warts can also occur in people who have never had anal sex due to the skin spread of HPV infection.

Warts on other parts of the body, such as the hands, are caused by different types of HPV. Contact with these warts does not seem to be the cause of genital warts.

Warts may appear within several weeks after sexual relations with an infection person; or they may take months to appear; or they may never apear. This makes it hard to know exactly when or from whom you got the virus.

It is thought most subclinical HPV infections are transmitted through sexual intercourse, although they are generally believed to be less contagious than genital warts.

How do you know if you have genital warts?

In some cases, it's difficult to know. Sometimes people do not notice warts because they are inside the vagina, or on the cervix, or in the anus. In addition, they are often flesh coloured and painless. Only rarely do they cause symptoms such as itching, pain, or bleeding. Sometimes warts will be found during a physical examination.

You should go to a doctor or clinic if:

  • you notice any unusual growths, bumps, or skin changes on or near your penis, vagina, vulva, or anus; or
  • you notice any unusual itching, pain, or bleeding; or
  • your sex partner(s) tells you that they have genital HPV or genital warts.

What about HPV, genital warts and pregnancy?

Genital warts very rarely cause problems during pregnancy and delivery. Because of changes in the body during pregnancy, warts can grow in size and number. A woman with genital warts does not need to have a caesarean section delivery unless warts are blocking the birth canal, which is extremely rare. Rarely, babies exposed to HPV during birth may develop warts in the throat. If you are pregnant and have genital warts, speak to your health care provider, as some methods of treatment cannot be used during pregnancy.

 

Click here for a printable pamphlet - Some Questions and Answers about HPV and Genital Warts

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HPV Project New Zealand

The NZ HPV Project is supported by: 

  • An educational grant from New Zealand District Health Boards
  • CSL Biotherapies Ltd NZ for an educational grant contributing to optimisation.

Brought to you by the Sexually Transmitted Infections Education Foundation (STIEF). 

For information or advice on where to seek help, please get in touch.

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CONTACT US


New Zealand HPV Project
C/- Sexually Transmitted Infections Education Foundation Inc (STIEF)

PO Box 2437, Shortland Street,
Auckland 1140, New Zealand

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