Genital warts are an STI (sexually transmitted infection) which can affect both men and women.
Although many people will contract genital warts at some stage in their life — with it being second only to chlamydia as the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the UK — no one should suffer from it.
Fortunately, genital warts can be treated. In the guide below, we’ll be taking a closer look at the different genital warts treatments for men, as well as genital warts symptoms in men.
What are genital warts?
Genital warts are a very common STI — a sexually transmitted infection.
They appear as little skin lumps, bumps, growths, or alterations, and are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).
An HPV is a strain of more than a hundred different viruses, which are very common, and cause warts to appear on your hand, foot, fingers, or genital area.
Genital warts can affect both men and women and can look quite different for different people.
Genital HPV infection
Genital warts are the result of genital HPV infection.
There are lots of different types of HPV, but 90% of genital warts are caused by two distinct strains of HPV: type 6 and type 11.
If you have genital warts, it is likely caused by one of these HPV types.
Where are genital warts found in men?
As you would expect from the name, genital warts are found on your genitals and in your genital area. This means that you can find them:
- Anywhere on your penis
- Around or inside your anus
- Inside your urethra (the tube where your urine comes out)
- On your upper thighs
- On your scrotum
If you think you have any internal genital warts (such as inside the anus), you may need to seek more urgent advice from a medical expert on how best to treat them.
Genital warts symptoms in men
As a man, there are a number of symptoms of genital warts you can look for:
- Unusual growths in the genital area (they may look like little lumps and bumps)
- Clusters or growths on their own
- Itching and irritation in genital area
- Some bleeding (though unusual)
Genital warts affect people differently and can look different for different people. They can range in size, shape, texture and colour. For example, they may be white, pink, or slightly darker than your normal skin tone.
If you find that you have a lump, bump, growth, or alteration on your body, and think it may be genital warts, there are plenty of examples of how they look that you can refer to.
Alternatively, you can read more about genital warts symptoms here.
How can men catch genital warts?
Firstly, you must know that genital warts can’t be caught from kissing, hugging, or touching shared items (such as toilet seats, cutlery or towels).
However, genital warts are transmitted through skin-to-skin contact via sexual intercourse. This can include:
- Vaginal sex
- Anal sex
- Non-penetrative genital contact
- Oral sex – though this method of transmission is rarer than other
- Sex toys – if shared
Any type of sexual contact can increase your risk of catching genital warts because it is such a common STI, but vaginal and anal sex are typically the most usual ways that genital warts are caught and spread.
Sharing sex toys and oral sex can also transmit genital warts, but this is much more unusual.
Can men stop themselves from catching genital warts?
If you are sexually active — and particularly if you have multiple sexual partners — there is always going to be a risk that you may catch genital warts, because it is such a common STI.
The only way to guarantee you won’t catch genital warts is to avoid all sexual skin-to-skin contact.
If you wish you reduce your chances of catching genital warts during sex, you can do the below:
- Wear a condom
- Avoid having sex if you know you have genital warts or are currently being treated
- Avoid sharing sex toys
- If you do share sex toys, wash them or use a condom with them
Wearing a condom is the most effective way to prevent transmission. However, you must bear in mind that condoms do not stop all skin-to-skin contact — so even during protected sex, there is still a chance of catching genital warts.
How serious are genital warts for men?
Although they can feel distressing, genital warts aren’t serious and can be treated (we cover treatment options a little bit lower down in this guide).
HPV — the virus which causes warts — usually goes away on its own, and won’t cause any serious health problems. However, for some people (in rare cases), HPV infection may not go away, and can cause health problems to develop.
Genital warts and cancer
When it comes to cancer, genital warts themselves do not cause cancer.
However, HPV (the human papillomavirus) is responsible for an increased risk of men getting cancers such as anal cancer and penile cancer. These types of HPV-related cancers are generally very rare.
For women, HPV infection can increase the chances of cervical cancer, which is why it is so important that women get regular cervical screenings (also known as smear tests). You can find out more about genital warts for women here.
The HPV vaccine
The HPV vaccine is given to boys and girls aged 12 to 13 (in year 8 of school) in the UK.
HPV vaccines are also offered to men (up to the age of 45) who have sex with men, some trans men and trans women, people living with HIV, and sex workers.
This HPV vaccination can help protect against both genital cancers and genital warts.
Can I get treatment for my genital warts?
Yes — genital warts in both men and women can be treated in a number of different ways. The most suitable treatment option for you will depend on where your genital warts are, as well as a few other different factors.
We will go into genital warts treatments for men in more detail below.
Genital warts treatment for men
If you have genital warts, there are a number of treatments available to help:
- Podophyllotoxin (Warticon & Condyline): this has a poisonous effect on your warts and burns them away. Warticon normally works more quickly than Aldara but doesn’t help to stop recurrent episodes. It should only be used on genital warts — it is not suitable for use around the anus.
- Aldara: works by stimulating your immune system and causing it to attack your warts. Using this action, Aldara makes your warts less likely to return once they have cleared. Aldara can be used on genital and anal warts. Click through to find out more about Aldara side effects or to read our customer reviews of Aldara Cream.
- Trichloroacetic acid: this is used on small, tough warts. It removes your warts by destroying the proteins inside the wart cells.
- Cryotherapy: having your warts frozen off by a doctor or nurse using liquid nitrogen.
- Excision: getting your warts cut off/away by a doctor or nurse.
- Electrosurgery: this combines both excision and electrosurgery. First, the outer part of your wart is removed by excision; then a loop is put against the wart and a current is passed through it. This treatment is primarily for larger warts.
- Laser surgery: a surgeon laser burns off/away your warts.
If you are unsure which is the best treatment for you, speak to your doctor or pharmacy. Alternatively, sexual health clinics and able to provide medical advice and treatment for genital warts.
Genital warts are a common STI caused by HPV (the human papillomavirus) that affects a lot of people across the world.
Although suffering from genital warts may feel embarrassing and stressful, they can be easily treated in a number of different ways.
Here at The Independent Pharmacy, we offer a range of genital warts treatment options for you. Get in contact with a professional to decide which course of treatment is best for you, and make sure that your genital warts no longer cause you to suffer.