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Genital Wart Treatments & Advice

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  • What causes Genital Warts?

    They are caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the name of a group of viruses that includes more than 150 different types that cause infection on the skin surface. Certain types of HPV cause warts on the hands or feet, while others can cause visible genital warts. Genital warts are specifically caused by HPV type 6 & 11.

  • What do Genital Warts look like?

    The warts are small fleshy growths or bumps that can appear ‘cauliflower’ shaped. In women they can appear on the vulva, inside the vagina and on the cervix. In men the warts can appear on the penis and scrotum. Warts can also affect the groin, thigh and anus in both sexes. They can range in colour from neutral skin toned to brown or black.


  • Who gets Genital Warts?

    If you are sexually active, evidence suggests that at some point during your life you will suffer with some form of HPV infection, though not necessarily genital warts. Most HPV infections will go unnoticed and will clear up spontaneously without the need for treatment.

  • How do you get HPV or Genital Warts?

    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.

    Warts on the hands and other areas of the body are caused by different strains of HPV, not the same ones responsible for genital warts. Contact with these warts on other areas of the body does not seem to cause genital warts.

  • I have some Genital Warts that have just appeared. Will my partner think I have cheated on them?

    If you have unprotected sex with someone with genital warts, you are at risk of catching HPV and developing them yourself. You can still get genital warts even if you use a condom, depending on the area they affect in your sexual partner. Not everyone who is exposed to HPV 6 or 11 will go on to develop genital warts, however if you do they can take weeks or even months to develop. This can make it hard to know exactly when or from whom you got the virus.

  • How would I know if I had Genital Warts? Do they hurt?

    External genital warts are normally noticed by either examining the area visually or by touch. In some cases in can be difficult to know, especially if the warts are flesh coloured. Sometimes people do not notice warts because they are inside the vagina, or on the cervix, or in the anus Only rarely do they cause symptoms such as itching, pain, or bleeding.

    Sometimes genital warts will be found during an examination for a different condition. For women, an abnormal cervical smear may be the first warning sign that HPV is present, though a cervical smear is not a test for HPV.

  • Can I self-diagnose Genital Warts?

    Genital warts can be normally be self-diagnosed after the first outbreak which should be reviewed by a healthcare professional. If you are in any doubt you should see your GP or local sexual health clinic for a formal diagnosis.

  • What should my partner do if I have Genital Warts or HPV?

    Your partner should inspect themselves for signs of genital warts. If they have any visible external genital warts they should seek treatment. You should try to avoid sexual contact until both of your cases of genital warts have cleared up, however if this is not possible you should use a condom.

  • How are Genital Warts treated?

    Genital warts don’t always require treatment; a lot of cases will slowly clear up on the own. However, due to the sensitive nature of the condition, which can often be unsightly and embarrassing, many people seek treatment to speed up the process. Treatment should aim to remove all the externally visible warts and hence also relieve any uncomfortable symptoms.

    The available treatments for genital warts from The Independent Pharmacy are:

    Podophyllotoxin (Warticon) - available as a solution and a cream. Warticon is applied twice daily for three days followed by a four day break, and continued for around four of these weekly cycles, though more may be necessary. Warticon burns away the wart tissue and removes each wart individually - it does not fight the HPV infection or reduce the chance of recurrence.  The solution is normally recommended for men only as it is can be difficult for women to self-apply. Warticon cream may be more appropriate for women suffering with external genital warts.

    Imiquimod (Aldara) cream can be used to treat external genital and perianal (around the groin and anus) warts. It is easy and safe to use for both males and females. Aldara is applied three times weekly for up to 16 weeks. Aldara stimulates the immune system to fight the HPV infection present in the skin. It can take longer to treat an outbreak of warts than Warticon, however treatment with Aldara cream has been shown to reduce the chances of a recurrent outbreak.  

    Treatment with Warticon or Aldara can take a number of weekly cycles so you must be patient during treatment.

    If you are pregnant or think you might be, you should see your own GP for extra checks.

    You should not use over-the-counter wart treatments that are not specifically for genital warts. These are not meant for sensitive genital skin.

    It is recommended to avoid sexual contact with the infected area during treatment, to protect the treated area of skin from friction and help it heal.


  • Can HPV and Genital Warts be cured? Will I have them forever?

    Genital wart treatment aims to remove the external warts but it does not kill the HPV virus. This means that in some cases the virus can lie dormant and recur at a later date, although this is not always the case. It can take several treatment cycles to completely get rid of genital warts. Unfortunately there is no cure for HPV itself.

  • What about HPV, Genital Warts and cancer?

    The strains of HPV linked to cervical cancer are not usually the types linked with genital warts (HPV 6 & 11). However, a woman with genital warts, like any other sexually active woman, should have regular smears to check their cervix.

    HPV immunisation and regular cervical smears are the best safeguard against cervical cancer. Cervical smears detect abnormal cells present on the surface of the cervix. Cancer almost always can be prevented through the early detection and treatment of abnormal cervical tissue.

  • What about HPV, Genital Warts and pregnancy? Is getting pregnant dangerous?

    Genital warts very rarely cause problems during pregnancy and delivery. However due to changes in the body during pregnancy, warts can grow in size and number. If you have genital warts or think you may have been exposed to genital warts and you are or may be pregnant, you should see your GP for further advice and treatment. In very rare cases, it is advisable for pregnant women to have a C-section over a natural birth for the wellbeing of mother and baby.

  • What are filiform warts and why are they formed?

    Filiform growths are long, thin and flesh-coloured warts that can be found on the face, eyelids, neck or lips. These warts can form then a strain of HPV makes the top layer of your skin grow too rapidly.

  • Can you catch these warts from a toilet seat?

    It is important to be aware of how the HPV virus can be contracted. However, you cannot get genital warts from any of the following:

    • Close physical contact when clothed, such as hugging or sharing baths or towels
      Using swimming pools
      Sharing cups, plates or cutlery
  • Do genital warts smell?

    Genital warts are generally odourless. However, ulcerated warts or infected areas of skin may produce a discharge with an unpleasant odour if not treated urgently.

  • How long does it take for the warts to go?

    Treatment can generally clear warts within 3 months, however it is a topic of debate whether this clearance means that there is still a residual inactive virus or that all the virus has been completely eradicated. Methods such as diathermy, laser ablation and excision will have immediate effect as lesions may be removed in one treatment. Patients with 1-3 warts generally require fewer treatments and less treatment time than those with more lesions.

    You may require more than one course of treatment. If your symptoms persist, contact a healthcare professional for advice.

  • Why do people who do not have anal sex sometimes get anal warts?

    Anal warts can commonly occur in the absence of anal intercourse. This is because HPV is typically a multi-centric and is not limited to the original site of infection. HPV can be transferred in a number of ways, for example by fingers from the genital to anal epithelium during foreplay.

  • Can genital warts lead to infertility?

    The warts themselves should not affect your chances of getting pregnant. However, the HPV virus can increase your risk of developing precancerous or cancerous cells in your cervix. This could affect your fertility and ability to carry a child to term.

  • Is any gender more likely to get genital warts?

    You are equally likely to contract HPV and suffer from genital warts regardless of whether you are a man, woman or of any other gender identity.

Authored By:

A photo of  Chris Newbury

Chris Newbury

BPharm IP

Published on: 29-05-2019

Last modified on: 29-05-2019

Chris is a vastly experienced clinical pharmacist and has been registered as an Independent Prescriber since 2014.

Reviewed By:

A photo of  Leanne Sinclair

Leanne Sinclair


Reviewed on: 29-05-2019

Next review date: 29-05-2021

Leanne is a clinical pharmacist with years of experience working in pharmacy.

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