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What are the symptoms of genital warts?

What are the symptoms of genital warts?

Updated on:
September 20, 2021

While many people may not realize they are infected with HPV, non-cancer-causing types of HPV, especially types 6 and 11, can lead to genital warts. 

As one of the few visible side effects of HPV infection, genital warts are often the only indication of HPV. They can occur both externally on the body or internally (inside the anus, throat/mouth, and vagina). Typically they appear as: 

  • Red, white, or flesh-colored
  • Large or small in size
  • Flat or raised
  • Individually or as a cluster/group 
  • Smooth on the surface or cauliflower-like 

Genital warts are often painless but itching or burning may accompany them. Uncommonly, genital warts may bleed when disrupted. 

Vaginal Genital Warts:

Genital warts can appear on the external skin of the vulva, vagina, anus/buttocks, or thighs, and the internal membranes (the inside) of the urethra, vagina, cervix, and rectum. 

Genital Warts in Penises:

Genital warts can appear on the external skin of the penis, anus/buttocks, scrotum, or thighs and the internal membrane (the inside) of the urethra and rectum. 

Oral HPV:

The strains of HPV which can lead to genital warts can also cause warts in the throat and mouth. These warts will often not be visible and are identifiable by their symptoms, which may include:

  • Pain when swallowing
  • A sore throat that won't go away
  • Vocal hoarseness
  • Unexplained weight loss 
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • An earache

People with penises experience higher rates of oral HPV, especially if they smoke. Persons living with HIV have an elevated incidence rate of HPV and are more likely to develop genital warts as a result of HPV infection. 


Resources:

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/human-papillomavirus-(hpv)-and-cervical-cancer

https://www.cps.ca/en/documents/position/HPV

Reviewed by:
Emeline Mugisha

Emeline’s expertise stems from over a decade of community/public health practice among marginalized communities in the U.S. and abroad, with a clinical focus on HIV and infectious diseases.

Using a social justice lens, she is a fierce advocate for empowerment-based practice, trauma-informed care, and cultivating rest as tools for advancing towards whole-life wellness.

She holds a Master of Science in Nursing and a Master of Public Health from Johns Hopkins University.