The main points

  • Most people infected with HPV don’t have any warts.
  • Warts are passed on by having vaginal or anal sex with someone who has the virus.
  • Treatment is a special cream or paint prescribed by a doctor. Freezing and laser treatment can also be used.

Genital warts are one of the most common sexually transmissible infections (STIs). They are caused by a few different viruses that are members of the human papilloma virus (HPV) family.

Genital warts look very similar to warts on other parts of the body but are different to warts on your hands or feet. They vary in size and usually have a rough surface. Some people only have a few and others may have lots. You can get warts in the anal area even if you haven’t had anal sex. 

What are the symptoms?

Most people infected with HPV don’t have any warts. Those that do, notice small lumps on the genital or anal area. There can sometimes be itching and irritation. The warts usually appear from 3 weeks to up to 12 months after being infected.

Is there a test for warts?

No, they are diagnosed by their appearance.


Treatment is a special cream or paint prescribed by a doctor. Freezing and laser treatment can also be used. Because the treatment is aimed at the wart rather than the virus causing it, warts can come back after successful treatment.  Eventually your body will rid itself of the virus.

How do I become infected?

Warts are passed on through genital skin to skin contact. People without genital warts can carry the virus and pass it on to others by genital skin to skin contact. The time between catching the virus and having warts appear varies. Some people may take up to a year or more to develop warts, so the appearance of warts doesn’t help you work out when you were infected.

They are not passed on from warts on other parts of the body, e.g. hands and feet.

When can I have sex again?

If you are having treatment to your warts, your doctor will tell you if you need to avoid sex until healing has occurred.

If wart creams is recommended it is  applied to the warts at night and shouldn’t be applied until after sex as it may irritate your partner’s skin and it will also damage latex condoms.

What are the chances of passing this on to my partner? Do I need to use a condom with my partner?

If you have had unprotected sex with a current partner partner before you were diagnosed with genital HPV, there is a high chance you have both become infected even though only one of you may have symptoms, such as genital warts. You should use condoms with any new partner to reduce their risk of acquiring HPV infection from you.


Condoms reduce the risk but don’t completely prevent infection. 

The Gardasil vaccine is available to year 7 students free of charge, regardless of gender. The vaccine protects against the most common types of genital HPV that can cause genital warts. Pap test changes and cancer. If you have missed out on the vaccine discuss the benefits with your doctor or nurse.  The Gardasil vaccine is also available by prescription from a doctor, but it is quite expensive.

Where to get more information, support or advice


This website provides general information only. The suitability of such general information  varies  from   person  to   person,  depending  on individual circumstances.   You should seek specific medical or legal advice for your individual circumstances.

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Last updated: 5 June 2016

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