They are caused by a virus known as the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and are similar, but different types, to the warts you can get on other parts of the body, for example feet or hands.
How are they passed on?
The virus lives on the skin, it is spread through skin to skin contact. It can be passed from one person to another during sex or close genital contact and by sharing sex toys. HPV can remain undetected on the skin and be passed on to a sexual partner without any warts being visible.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Only 10% of people with the virus will develop genital warts. Most people who are exposed to HPV will not develop genital warts. It can take weeks, months or even years after being in contact with the virus before genital warts appear. You may notice small pinkish/white cauliflower lumps or warts appearing singly or in groups, around or inside the genital area. The warts may be itchy but are painless.
How will you know if you have Genital Warts?
You may notice small pinkish/white cauliflower lumps or warts appearing singly or in groups, around or inside the genital area. You might see or feel them yourself or they may be noticed by your partner, or during a medical examination
How do you get tested?
There isn’t a test for genital warts other than what can be seen when you are examined. If you are worried you can visit your GP surgery or a sexual health clinic.
What is the treatment?
If you have genital warts you will usually be prescribed an anti-wart liquid or cream. Other treatments include freezing which is carried out by a doctor or nurse. Treatments although not painful may be uncomfortable and may go on for several weeks.
Is there anything I can do myself?
Always use a condom to reduce the spread of HPV. However if HPV is present on genital skin or in areas not covered by a condom, transmission may still occur. If there are visible warts not covered by a condom it is best to avoid sex until the warts have cleared up. The best way to prevent all sexually transmitted infections, including Genital warts is to practise safer sex. This means using a condom for vaginal or anal sex or a condom or dental dam for oral sex. Reducing the number of partners you have sex with also reduces the risk of being infected.
For further information on Genital Warts visit: www.healthscotland.com