Genital warts are caused by a fairly common sexually transmitted virus, which can result in small, flesh-coloured bumps appearing on the skin around the genital area. They’re usually quite distinct and easy to identify.

In this post, we’ll discuss:

What do genital warts look like?

Genital warts are small growths in or around the genital area.

They tend to be:

  • flat or smooth when small in size
  • or pink with a cauliflower-like appearance when clustered or large in size.

But in some cases the warts can be very small and may go unnoticed by you or your partner.

What other symptoms do genital warts cause?

The virus responsible for genital warts will not cause any other symptoms besides the warts themselves. However, the presence of warts can sometimes have secondary effects.

Genital warts do not cause discomfort usually, but a small number of people may experience itching or inflammation; and scratching warts can cause them to bleed. It is also possible for warts located in the urethra to alter urinary flow, so urine may appear twisted when being passed out of the body.

Where on the body do genital warts appear?

In women, warts may appear on the vulva, cervix, upper thighs, vagina and anus. Men may notice warts on their penis, urethra, scrotum, upper thighs and anus.

It’s also possible for warts to develop inside the urethra or anus.

In rare cases, warts have been found in the mouth or throat when someone has taken part in oral sex with someone with the virus.

Read more about where on the body HPV can cause warts.

How quickly do genital warts appear?

In some cases, warts may appear a few weeks after the virus has been transmitted; but in others it might take several months or even years before they appear for the first time.

Some people who contract the strains of the virus that cause warts may never actually go on to develop them, and be asymptomatic carriers of HPV.

How long do genital warts last for?

Really it comes down to how well somebody’s immune system can fight off the virus, and whether or not they use treatment.

If someone doesn’t use treatment, their warts may persist for a few months or a couple of years. In some cases, they may not go away without treatment.

People who do use topical treatment may find that their warts go away within a few weeks; but some people respond better to treatment than others. If someone uses treatment continuously for four months, they will normally need to go back to their doctor to discuss other options.

Can genital warts come back?

Yes. Genital warts are caused by a virus, which lies dormant in the body when not active. When the virus reactivates, it will cause warts to appear again. This might occur when the immune system becomes weakened (such as during periods of tiredness, stress or illness) and is less able to keep the virus in check.

However, even though warts may recur, the strain of the virus that causes warts does not cause any long-term health issues, and in some cases the body can rid itself of the virus over time.

You can read more about the different treatments for genital warts and how to prevent genital warts on our information pages.

Page last reviewed:  19/10/2018