Genital Warts

What the heck is it anyway?

Certain types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) cause genital warts. They can occur in guys and girls, and about 360,000 people in the U.S. get genital warts each year. Genital warts are usually spread by skin-to-skin contact, usually during vaginal, anal and occasionally oral sex.

Genital warts can appear within several weeks, months or years. They also might not appear at all, which can make it difficult to know if you have them. Genital warts appear as growths or bumps on the skin and when they’re present, the virus is considered “active” and more likely to spread. Genital warts are annoying and painful, but they’re not considered dangerous. However, they can cause sores and bleeding, which can make your body more vulnerable to HIV and other STIs. If you get the type of HPV that causes genital warts, this can also up your risk of getting the types of HPV that cause cancer.

The kind of HPV that causes genital warts is spread through skin-to-skin contact, usually sexual contact like oral, anal, or vaginal sex. The HPV vaccine protects against the main two viruses that cause 90 percent of all genital warts cases. Using condoms correctly every time you have sex can also help cut down on your risk of contracting the type of HPV that causes genital warts. Condoms don’t cover everything though, so there’s still some risk.

Only your doctor can correctly diagnose you with genital warts. Not all bumps or lesions are warts, and different skin conditions can require very different types of treatment. For example, syphilis, skin tags and hemorrhoids can look just like genital warts. If you have questions, visit your doctor and don’t be afraid to ask them!


In North Carolina, you have the right to get confidential STI tests and treatment without a parent’s permission. Want to get tested, but don’t know where to start? Use this nifty search tool to find a testing site near you.