What are Genital Warts?

Genital Warts are signs of a very common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the UK. This STI is caused by certain types/strains of viruses that belong to the human papillomavirus (HPV) family. There are over 140 types of HPV, some of which are linked with the development of cancer in the cervix, vagina, vulva, penis and anus.

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Sexually transmitted HPVs fall into two categories:

  • Low-risk HPVs which do not cause cancer but can cause skin warts on or around the genitals or anus. Types 6 and 11 cause 90% of Genital Warts.
  • High-risk HPVs which can cause cancer. Fourteen high-risk HPV types have been identified. Two of these, types 16 and 18, are responsible for the majority of HPV-caused cancers.

How can I catch Genital Warts?

Genital Warts (HPV) are passed from person to person through an exchange of infected bodily fluids or skin-to-skin contact. This includes unprotected vaginal or anal sex, or by sharing infected sex toys. Although rare, it can also be transmitted via oral sex. Genital Warts cannot be passed on by kissing or sharing objects like towels, cutlery, cups or toilet seats.

What are the symptoms and signs of Genital Warts or infection with HPV?

An infection with the Genital Warts virus (HPV) does not usually show any symptoms. However, potential visible symptoms include the formation of warts, which are small, red or pink growths resembling raspberries or cauliflowers, in or around the genitals or rectum.

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Although there is no treatment for HPV, Genital Warts can be treated by your doctor. In pregnant women, Genital Warts can become an obstacle when delivering the baby.

How can Genital Warts/HPV be tested/checked?

Testing for Genital Warts (HPV) is different for men and women.

For women, Better2Know recommends the combined HPV and PAP smear. This takes one cervical sample to look for the presence of HPV and check for any abnormal, pre-cancerous or cancerous cells. If you just test for HPV, a second sample may be needed. 

For men, the standard HPV test is a swab of a visible wart or lesion; your Better2Know doctor will help you to determine the appropriate site (visible wart, urethra, or anus) for sampling.

Your results will be available within 5 working days from receipt of your samples at our laboratory. You can keep track of your results using Better2Know’s secure Patient Area on our website. Our expert sexual health advisors will also contact you once all your results are ready to report.

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What are the risks if Genital Warts/HPV is left untreated?

Contracting HPV increases your chances of getting other STIs, such as HIV. It is important to know your HPV status, so you can take appropriate measures to protect your personal health as well as that of any current or future sexual partners.

If your HPV infection remains undiagnosed and untreated, you may develop precancerous lesions that progress into cancer (e.g. cervical, penile and anal).

Pregnant women with Genital Warts can find that their warts enlarge due to hormones during pregnancy. If left untreated, the warts could become an obstacle to delivery, resulting in a caesarean birth. In some cases, the mother can pass on the warts to her child during childbirth, where new-borns develop warts in their throat, leading to a potentially life threatening condition. Therefore, it is important to get tested regularly and to treat the infection where necessary.

What if I test positive for Genital Warts/HPV?

If you do test positive for HPV or Genital Warts, Better2Know will arrange an appropriate confidential follow-up consultation to access treatment as needed. You will be referred to a specialist who will be able to recommend follow-up tests and provide advice on the most appropriate treatment for you. Alternatively, this can be arranged through your own GP.

Genital Warts can be managed and even removed with various treatment methods, including creams, lasers, surgery and cryotherapy (freezing). Repeat courses of treatment may be required to remove the infected tissue fully. However, the virus responsible for Genital Warts cannot be cured by external treatment. For some people, the virus will clear naturally over time.

There are organisations who can support you such as The STI Project, an online forum for people to share their stories.

Can I prevent Genital Warts/HPV?

Better2Know provides HPV vaccinations for those who are concerned about Genital Warts or HPV. Our vaccines will protect you from several types of the virus, including types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58. These types are associated with causing most cases of HPV related cancers and Genital Warts. You will need 3 doses of the vaccine to be fully protected. Each dose will be administered at intervals of 1−2 months and 6−12 months. A booster dose is also advised once every 5 years.

For our patients who test positive for HPV or Genital Warts, Better2Know will arrange an appropriate confidential follow-up consultation to access treatment as needed.

Book your HPV Test

Better2Know is the world’s leading provider of private sexual health testing services. We will arrange a clinic appointment or home testing kit quickly, and deliver fast and accurate results for your peace of mind. If you have any concerns about your sexual health, please call our friendly booking team on the number above or click Book Now.

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