Genital and anal warts are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the U.S. Some strains of HPV cause cancer, but they usually are not the strains that cause genital and anal warts.
If not treated, genital and anal warts can grow larger, bleed and cause pain or itching. Sometimes genital and anal warts clear on their own without treatment.
Most people with HPV do not have warts or other symptoms. If warts are present on the genital or anal areas, they look like fleshy bumps and may be itchy. Warts can also be hidden on the cervix, in the vagina or in the rectum.
The best way to prevent genital and anal warts is with the HPV vaccine.
HPV vaccine is recommended for:
The vaccine works best on people who have not been exposed to HPV. However, if you are sexually active and may have been exposed to HPV, the vaccine may still help you. The vaccine protects against several types of HPV, and you may not have been exposed to all of the types of the virus that are in the vaccine.
Condoms and dental dams can lower the chance of spreading HPV, but HPV can still infect areas not covered by the condom or dental dam.
Your health care provider can perform a visual exam to look for genital or anal warts. There is no widely available test to tell if someone without visible warts or other symptoms is infected with HPV. There is no blood test for HPV.
Treatment depends on the size, number and location of the warts. Warts can be removed with:
If you are diagnosed with genital or anal warts, tell your current sex partner(s) so they can be evaluated and treated appropriately. Encourage your sex partner(s) to get the HPV vaccine if they are eligible.
During pregnancy, genital and anal warts may grow more quickly. The risk to the baby is small. Tell your health care provider that you are pregnant when you seek treatment for genital or anal warts.