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Sexually Transmitted Infections

Genital Warts

Genital warts are caused by two viruses from the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) family that cause warts on other parts of the body.

They are different from the HPV viruses that cause cervical cancer.

Soon, a new HPV vaccine for teenage girls in Scotland will be introduced which will protect against genital warts.

What are genital warts and how are they caught?

Small, sometimes tiny pinkish or white cauliflower-like lumps on, around or inside the genitals.
They can appear singly or in groups and may be itchy and bleed when scratched but are generally painless. 
The warts usually clear up themselves, but can take weeks, months or longer to go. 
Genital warts are caught through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person.

How can I avoid catching genital warts?

If you're going to have sex, always use a condom (or a dam for oral sex with a woman) and have safer sex.
However, the genital wart virus can be on skin that's not covered by male or female condoms or dams. 
Only around 1 in 10 people who come into contact with the virus will develop warts. An infected person can pass on the virus even when no warts are visible.

How can I tell if I have genital warts?

You may see or feel the lumps yourself, your partner might spot them or they might be spotted by a nurse or doctor during a medical examination for something else.

Genital warts testing

There's no 'test' as such other than by a doctor or nurse examining you for signs of the warts. 
If you know you've been exposed to the virus, you might be asked to come back later and be re-examined (it can take a long time for the warts to appear).
You can get tested by your GP or at your local sexual health service.

Genital warts treatment

Treatment is by special anti-wart cream or liquid. Wart removal medicines you can buy in pharmacies for other types of wart don't work - always see your GP or visit a sexual health clinic for treatment.
A doctor or nurse can treat it by freezing.

Find out more about genital warts symptoms, testing and treatment

Adults - find out more at Sexual Health Scotland.
Young People - find out more at Get The Lowdown.