Types of Genital Warts
Which different types of warts are there?
There are more than a hundred different strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV), only a couple of which are responsible for most types of genital warts
The different forms of genital warts which affect women can appear in or around the vagina, vulva, anus or near the neck of the womb
In men, genital warts are not as common as in women, but they often appear on the tip of the penis but they can also appear around the anus
Most types of warts can be treated with creams such as Condyline and Aldara
There are different types of genital warts. Which treatment you require depends on the size and type of warts you have.
All of these different types are caused by the same virus - the HPV virus - and are also known as "condyloma" or "penile/venereal warts".
They look like skin-colored growths located in or around the genital and anal areas.
Most types of genital warts are painless and tend to appear in clusters. If you suffer from such warts you should get treated before having sex again as they are highly contagious.
Different types of warts and their treatment
Genital warts are usually soft and moist and tend to appear in "groups" of three to four. Note however, that this differs between patients and that some people will only have one or two warts while others may develop a large number of individual growths.
When the warts go unnoticed, they can grow and form small cauliflower-shaped clusters that are flesh-coloured.
HPV and types of warts
There are more than a hundred different strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV), only a couple of which are responsible for most types of genital warts (as well as anal warts). The majority of genital warts are caused by HPV types 6 and 11. These warts will usually grow for 6 months after which they tend to stop growing. Other strains of HPV can cause warts on your feet or hands, which are less contagious than genital warts. A few strains of HPV are classified as high-risk, as they can lead to specific cancers.
Itchy or bleeding sores?
You might read that genital warts can cause "mild pain" and that they may feel itchy or bleed. In fact, this only happens in rare cases, when warts reach a considerable size and/or if you scratch them off. If you think you have a wart, avoid any scratching (to avoid bleeding), and consult your doctor instead.
Genital warts in women
The different forms of genital warts that affect women can appear in or around the vagina, vulva, anus or near the neck of the womb. Often, the warts are too small for you to see or notice. Warts inside the vagina or anus can cause discomfort but they also may not cause any symptoms at all.
Genital warts in men
In men, genital warts are not as common as in women. They often appear on the tip of the penis but they can also appear around the anus, especially when the virus is transmitted during anal sex. Most types of warts will appear between one to three months after infection.
If you think you are infected you should get examined to avoid complications and to prevent that you transmit the infection to future partners. In about half of all cases, genital warts appear on the shaft of the penis, usually just below the foreskin.
Different types, different treatments
Some types of genital warts – usually the smaller ones – are easier to treat than others. Similarly, warts growing on moist skin tend to respond better to treatment than those located on dry skin. Most types of warts can be treated with creams such as Condyline, Warticon, and Aldara.
But if the warts are very large, if you have a lot of them, or if they’re not getting better with these creams, you might need to see a dermatologist and think about other treatment options. These could include surgically removing them, using cryosurgery (freezing off the warts with liquid nitrogen) or laser treatment.
Diagnosing genital warts
Genital warts are usually diagnosed based on how they look. A doctor can examine you to look at any lumps or bumps you’re worried about. Since warts can grow on the cervix or in the vagina, a doctor can have a look at these using a tool called a speculum.
If you're worried that you might have symptoms of genital warts, it’s important to get a diagnosis as soon as possible so you can start treatment.
About warts and cancer
The types of HPV that cause warts are not the same types that cause cancer. The high-risk types of HPV which are linked with cervical cancer do not cause warts. This means that if you have genital warts, these will not turn into cancer.
It’s important for all women to keep up to date with their regular smear tests. The NHS screening programme invites all women between the ages of 25 to 64 for regular smear tests. You can check with your GP if you’re not sure when your next one should be.
Genital warts and pregnancy
Genital warts in pregnant women can cause problems during birth if they become very large. If you think you have genital warts, and you’re pregnant, you should speak to your GP or midwife.
Not all types of wart treatment are safe to use in pregnancy, so it’s important to speak to a doctor about what treatment you should use.