Genital warts

Genital warts are a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) passed on by vaginal and anal sex, sharing sex toys and, rarely, by oral sex. Treatment from a sexual health clinic can help.

Non-urgent advice: Go to a sexual health clinic if you have:

  • 1 or more painless growths or lumps around your vagina, penis or anus
  • itching or bleeding from your genitals or anus
  • a change to your normal flow of pee (for example, it's begun to flow sideways) that does not go away
  • a sexual partner who has genital warts, even if you do not have symptoms

These symptoms mean you may have genital warts. Go to a sexual health clinic to be checked.

Sexual health clinics are sometimes called genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics, or sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services.

Treatment can help remove the warts and stop the infection being passed on.

See pictures of genital warts on a vagina, penis and anus
Wart on the vagina
Small, rough wart below the vagina
Wart on the penis
Cauliflower-like group of warts on the penis.
Warts on the penis
Flat, smooth warts on the penis
Warts on the anus
Cluster of warts around the anus
Information:

Why you should go to a sexual health clinic

You can see a GP, but they'll probably refer you to a sexual health clinic if they think you might have genital warts.

Sexual health clinics specialise in treating problems with the genitals and urine system.

Many sexual health clinics offer a walk-in service where you do not need an appointment.

A sexual health clinic will often get test results quicker than a GP surgery, and you do not have to pay a prescription charge for medicines prescribed by a sexual health clinic.

Find a sexual health clinic

What happens at a sexual health clinic

A doctor or nurse can usually diagnose warts by looking at them.

They will:

It may not be possible to find out who you got genital warts from, or how long you've had the infection.

Treatment for genital warts

Treatment for genital warts needs to be prescribed by a doctor.

The type of treatment you'll be offered depends on what the warts look like and where they are. The doctor or nurse will discuss this with you.

Treatments include:

It may take weeks or months for treatment to work and the warts may come back. In some people, the treatment does not work.

There's no cure for genital warts, but it's possible for your body to fight the virus over time.

Do

  • tell the doctor or nurse if you're pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, as some treatments will not be suitable for you

  • avoid perfumed soap, shower gel or bath products during treatment because these can irritate your skin

  • ask the doctor or nurse if your treatment will affect condoms, diaphragms or caps

Don’t

  • do not use wart treatment from a pharmacy; these are not made for genital warts

  • do not smoke; many treatments for genital warts work better if you do not smoke

  • do not have vaginal, anal or oral sex until the warts have gone; but if you do have sex, always use a condom

How genital warts are passed on

You can get genital warts from:

The genital warts virus can be passed on even when there are no visible warts.

Many people with the virus do not have symptoms but can still pass it on.

If you have genital warts, your current sexual partners should get tested because they may have warts and not know it.

After you get the infection, it can take weeks to many months before symptoms appear.

The virus can also be passed to a baby from its mother during birth, but this is rare.

You cannot get genital warts from:

How to stop genital warts being passed on

Why genital warts come back

You can stop genital warts from being passed on by:

Genital warts are caused by a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). There are many types of HPV.

The HPV virus can stay in your skin and warts can develop again.

Warts may go away without treatment, but this may take many months. You can still pass the virus on, and the warts may come back.

Genital warts and cancer

Genital warts are not cancer and do not cause cancer.

The HPV vaccine that's offered to girls and boys aged 12 to 13 in England protects against cervical cancer and genital warts.

The HPV vaccine is also offered to men (up to the age of 45) who have sex with men (MSM), some trans men and trans women, sex workers, and men and women living with HIV.

Find out more about the HPV vaccine

Genital warts and pregnancy

Important: Important

Tell your midwife or doctor if:

  • you're pregnant, or think you're pregnant, and you have genital warts or think you have genital warts

During pregnancy, genital warts:

Most pregnant women with genital warts have a vaginal delivery. Very rarely you might be offered a caesarean, depending on your circumstances.

Page last reviewed: 24 August 2020
Next review due: 24 August 2023