Genital warts are a common symptom caused by certain types of HPV. They’re skin-colored or white bumps that appear on the skin of the genitals and anus, and while they can be annoying, they’re not dangerous and are treatable.

Signs & Symptoms

They can be a single bump, or cluster together and have a “cauliflower-like” appearance. While some strains of HPV can cause cancer, the strains that result in genital warts are not the same strains as cancer-causing HPV. You can’t get them from touching warts on other parts of your or a partner’s body, like warts on the hands or feet. About 360,000 people get genital warts every year, spreading through skin-to-skin contact. Sometimes they appear weeks to years after exposure, and sometimes you can be carrying the virus and never show symptoms while still being able to pass the virus on to someone else.

Treating Genital Warts 

Sometimes the body fights off the virus on its own and they don’t require treatment, but several treatment options are available if you decide that’s what is best for you. They can be diagnosed through an exam by your provider. While they can be treated, they can’t be cured—even if the warts are gone, there’s no way to know if you’re still carrying the virus, so they may reoccur and they may not. Getting the HPV vaccine (Gardasil) helps prevent HPV strains that cause genital warts.

If you think you may have genital warts, we recommend being seen as soon as possible to receive an accurate diagnosis and treatment.