Genital Warts

How do I know if I have genital warts?

Genital warts like all other warts are caused by the effect of the HPV (human papilloma virus) on the surface skin. These viruses live on the outer layer of the skin called the epidermis. The virus may lay within the epidermis and not produce much in the way of changes that show on the skin surface when observed by the naked eye. When changes are visible the following features suggest the presence of warts:


  • small, "warty" cauliflower like bumps (verrucous papules)
  • discrete thin elongated skin tag like warts
  • smooth-topped bumps (papules or nodules)
  • large cauliflower lumps or masses


Warts vary in color, ranging from flesh-colored to pink to reddish brown. Warts that have a brown pigment or those that are very red may be more likely to be caused by HPV 16 or 18.

Singular or Clustered

Warts can present singularly, or in culsters. It is thought that the virus may exist subclinically, in the areas that do not have warts.

Where do they occur?

They are found most often in the areas of highest friction during sexual activity. Genital warts can be found anywhere in the genital or anal area. The appearance of these warts in the anal area can occur in the absence of anal sex. Importantly the virus can also involve the vagina and cervix as well as the skin at the entrance of the anus and urethra. The virus can also be transmitted from mother to child as the virus can infect the larynx and throats of newborns as they pass through an infected birth canal.

Can I feel the warts?

Lumps and bumps may be felt as they grow larger. In some cases, it may itch, bleed, or cause a burning sensation. Very often, however, HPV infections are without any visual symptoms, resulting in the infected not knowing that they are carriers.

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