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.

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. The genital warts virus 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 in men and women?

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

You can also develop precancerous lesions that may progress into cancer (e.g. cervical, penile and anal) if your HPV infection remains undiagnosed and untreated. Therefore, getting tested is vital to protect your personal health.

Did you know? …

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 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 abonormal, 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.

Adverse consequences

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.

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 is the treatment for genital warts?

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.

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 the appropriate confidential follow-up consultation for you to access the treatment you need.

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 contact us or call our friendly booking team on the number above.