Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the virus that can cause warts. Some strains of HPV cause warts on the penis, vagina or front-hole and bum, or surrounding areas.
Other strains of HPV cause warts in other parts of the body.
HPV is very common but most people don’t get warts.
There are also some strains of HPV that can cause cancers in the cervix, vagina or front-hole, vulva, throat, penis, anus and rectum.
HPV can be passed on by skin-to-skin contact, including oral, vaginal or front-hole, or anal sex. This can be even when there are no visible warts present.
Most people don’t have any signs when they get HPV, so you can have HPV and not know about it. If you do get genital warts, they can appear within a few weeks or can take months to appear after getting HPV.
Visible warts are often small painless growths or bumps, often rough to the touch. They can feel quite rubbery. These can be around the penis, balls, bum, vagina or front-hole, and can vary in how they look, size and how many there are. They sometimes appear in groups that look a bit like a small cauliflower.
You might also have itching, pain or bleeding from your penis, bum, vagina or front-hole.
Testing for genital warts is done by a doctor looking to see if there are warts or with a cervical screening test.
A doctor or health care worker can remove the warts by freezing, burning, using a laser or by applying liquid wart paints or creams. Warts can come back again after they have been removed, so treatment sometimes requires several visits.
The best way to prevent genital warts is to get vaccinated for HPV. The vaccine also protects you from strains that cause some cancers. The vaccine works best if you haven’t had that strain of HPV before, and it can still protect you from other strains you have not come into contact with.
Using condoms and lube reduces the risk of getting or passing on genital warts, but you can still get it or pass it on even when you use condoms, as condoms might not cover all of the infected areas.
If you have HIV and are not taking treatment (medicines) for HIV and you get genital warts, the warts can grow faster and can be harder to treat.
People with HIV have a higher chance of developing cancers caused by some strains of HPV.