Table of Contents
Generally, warts often appear as small, raised bumps on the skin. There are multiple types of warts, which can appear almost anywhere on the body – including the genitals. Genital warts are significantly different from other wart types, but one thing they all have in common is that they’re caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Genital warts are categorized as a sexually transmitted infection, or STI. In fact, the HPV virus is actually the most common out of STIs. They are usually small bumps on the skin like most warts, and are often pink, skin-coloured, or a bit darker than one’s skin tone. However, in some cases, they may be too small to even notice. These growths vary in shape and size, and can be smooth, or bumpy, appearing isolated, or as a cluster of warts.
Opposed to Common, or Filiform warts, for instance, genital warts can actually be painful, itchy, and uncomfortable. For women, these warts on the vagina can be even more of a health risk, as types of HPV can lead to cancer of the vulva or cervix if not managed or if left untreated.
As mentioned, Venereal warts (or genital) are caused by the HPV virus. The strains of the virus that cause these warts in particular, are types 6 and 11, and are very contagious. However, types 16 and 18 can also cause infection, but these are the less common and “high-risk” types, which are also associated with anogenital/cervical cancers.
The most common cause of genital warts is through skin-to-skin contact, typically sex. Oral, genital, or anal sex with an already infected partner can all lead transmission of the infection, but especially penetrative sex. It is possible to contract the virus without intimate contact, but much less likely. The more sexual partners one has, the higher their chances are that they will come into contact with this type of HPV virus. Genital warts may not show up until up to 8 months after the initial contraction of the virus.
Since the strains of HPV that contribute to genital warts are different from other types of warts (such as warts found on the hands or feet), they can’t spread to these body parts, and vice versa.
These HPV warts pictures shown on the genital areas can be a bit graphic, so be aware.
Warts on the genitals can appear differently for individuals, sometimes there are many whereas some are easy to miss and show up as a single wart.
As you can see above, some are raised bumps like normal warts, and others are hard to see with the human eye.
In men, genital warts can affect the penis, scrotum, urethra, and even anal area. They can be smooth, raised bumps, or even rougher with “finger-like”, bumpy projections. At times, warts on penis may be hidden by hair or underneath the foreskin.
Vaginal warts can look similar to those in males. In females, genital warts are common in the moist areas such as the vaginal opening and labia minora. If warts appear on outer genitals in women, a thorough exam of the inner vagina, cervix, and anal area is usually necessary. In rare cases females might notice itching, bleeding after sex, or discharge.
Some images of genital warts in men and women can be seen here.
Healthline.com also has a gallery of different examples of what these warts may look like on the penis, vagina, or anal area.
There are a number of helpful products which are effective in removing warts on the body. However, many of these products shouldn’t be used on genital warts. Not only will these methods likely not work, they could make things worse.
The above products are great choices when dealing with Common warts and Plantar warts. They can be purchased on Amazon, and are usually effective, quick, and easy to use for these types of warts.
However, In the case of more sensitive areas such as the genitals, these may create more pain and/or irritation and should be avoided.
Thuja can be a type of herbal remedy in some cases for warts, even those on the genitals. It has been said that Thuja stimulates cells in the immune system which are necessary for killing the HPV virus causing the warts. Boiron Thuja Occidentalis pellets are for sale on Amazon.com in different amounts. After first signs of symptoms, these pellets should be taken 3 times a day, by dissolving 5 of them under your tongue, until you notice results.
Tea tree oil can also be considered a natural remedy for warts, and is in fact safe those on the genitals, too. Many essential oils are good anti-fungal agents, including tea tree oil. To try this method, apply a drop of diluted tea tree oil and apply directly to the affected area/wart(s). To dilute, mix one drop of tea tree with 1-2 drops of carrier oil, such as coconut or almond oil.
Some individuals may be allergic to tea tree oil, so it’s best to test on another body part first such as your arm. If there is no reaction after 24 hours, it is likely safe for you to use on the warts. You can find many tea tree oils available for sale on Amazon.com.
Tea tree oil may cause slight inflammation or irritation, but this is how it reduces the size of the wart(s). Do not ingest this internally, or use on any internal areas of the genitals. You will need to apply this oil mixture consistently for multiple weeks to see results.
Natural remedies may not work as well as a venereal warts treatment, but may help to relieve symptoms. Often genital warts are more difficult to get rid of than other types of warts located elsewhere on the body. Some of these home remedies for genital warts have been shown to work, however, so they may be worth a try.
Green tea has been proven effective to heal warts, even those on and around the genitals. Green tea can be found concentrated into a compound into an ointment, which is called Sinecatechins/Veregen. This is available through a prescription. Another way to use green tea for genital warts is to purchase green tea extract OTC, and use this at home by adding a drop or two to coconut oil, and applying directly to the warts.
Evidence exists that garlic can assist with clearing up warts. You can purchase garlic extract and apply this to the warts in the genital area, or alternatively, you could soak some cotton or gauze in a garlic and oil mixture, applying this directly to the affected area and letting it sit for a while.
Apple cider vinegar has qualities similar to prescription medications which use acidic ingredients to kill the HPV virus causing the warts. For this reason, it may work when treating warts around the genitals as well. To use apple cider vinegar, you can soak a cotton ball or similar item in the vinegar and apply this to the warts for 10-20 minutes, twice a day.
Witch hazel is a natural remedy that is used for different skin problems. Although there is little evidence that it will work at all to relieve genital warts, it has been studied in the past, and found that it may be effective in fighting HPV strain 16. This is one of the HPV types that contributes to warts in this particular area. Witch hazel is also unlikely to irritate even sensitive skin, so it’s safe to try out.
Incorporating certain vegetables into your diet may also help to relieve warts. Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussel sprouts all contain Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) which can help to clear up genital warts.
Duct tape has actually been shown to get rid of many types of warts, sometimes being even more effective than cryotherapy. However, in the case of warts that are near/on your genitals, it isn’t recommended. Duct tape can cause bleeding, rashes, and/or pain when removing it, so for sensitive areas as such, it likely isn’t a good idea.
Even if you get a medical procedure to remove warts on/around the genitals, this likely won’t get rid of the underlying HPV virus, meaning they can still be transmissible even though they aren’t visible. Surgery for warts on groin may be a suitable option if other treatments aren’t helpful with removal, or when warts are widespread.
External dick warts or those on outer areas of the vagina, or anus, can be surgically removed through excision (cutting warts off) with a scalpel. Genital warts on the cervix can be removed through laser, or LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision). LEEP can also be referred to as electrocauterization, which is a procedure that destroys tissue using a metal probe heated from electric current, creating heat conduction.
Cryotherapy, although not surgical, is another medical type of treatment. In this procedure liquid nitrogen is used to freeze warts. This can be good for internal genital warts, and individuals with smaller numbers of warts. This method is said to be safe for pregnancy, and doesn’t cause scarring.
Treatment options will ultimately depend on many factors, including the amount, size, type of wart, etc. Surgical methods are also proven to be more effective on warts that are keratinized rather than those that are not.
It should be kept in mind that many surgical procedures will cause scarring, and healing will usually take about 2-4 weeks. For any individuals who have genital warts removed and have adverse side effects such as bleeding lasting over a week, severe pain, or a fever, you should contact your doctor. Sexual activity should also be avoided until the area heals and there is no soreness, which is about 1-3 weeks in most cases.
There are 5 major wart types, which include:
Common warts usually appear on fingers and toes, and can be identified by their rounded and rough top. They are usually small in size, and isolated.
Plantar warts are warts at the bottom of the foot, and they grow inwards to the skin, rather than protrude out. These warts appear like a tiny hole, with hard skin surrounding it, and can make walking painful.
Flat warts are common for the face, legs, or arms. They are small and have a flat top, instead of bumpy, and can be brownish, pink, or a bit yellow. These types of warts commonly grow in clusters and can spread.
Periungual warts are found underneath and around the finger and toenails. They can disrupt nail growth, and also can be painful.
Filiform warts can also be found on the face, sometimes around the mouth, eyelids, nose, neck, or elsewhere. They are usually skin-colored, and most commonly appear isolated. These warts are raised growths, similar to skin tags, but often have a “finger-like” appearance to them.
Genital warts can appear differently on individuals in terms of appearance, sometimes bumpy or “cauliflower” looking, or small, flat, and barely noticeable. They can grow in groups, or appear as a single wart. These warts don’t exactly fit into one of the above 5 types because they are different, in the sense that they are (usually) transmitted through sexual activity. This classifies genital warts as an STI. However, just as all other types of warts, these too are caused by the HPV virus.
Compared to other wart types, genital warts are significantly more contagious. You have a high risk of getting infected after just one sexual encounter with someone who has these warts. The HPV virus particles attack the skin during sex/sexual activity through microscopic lacerations that are caused from the sexual activity itself. Once the cells in the body are affected by the HPV virus, there is a “quiet” period, and it may be months before any genital warts even appear.
It’s much more common to pass on genital warts to another when they are active on the affected individual, but in some instances, they can still be contagious when they aren’t visible. Genital warts can also easily spread to the anal area even without anal sex.
Preventative measures do exist to protect you from contracting the HPV virus types associated with these warts. Using condoms will block the virus from passing through and are proven to stop transmission of the infection. However, the genital areas that the condom doesn’t cover can be at risk, and the skin which is exposed can still transmit or acquire the virus.
Vaccines are also available to prevent against warts on the genitals, such as Gardasil and Gardasil 9. These protect from the HPV strains that are associated to genital warts, as well as those that cause cervical cancer. Since cervical cancer in women can be caused by HPV in extreme cases, there is a vaccine called Cervarix available as well, which shields against cervical cancer, but not warts.
These vaccines come in the form of three separate shots. Although it’s possible to receive the HPV vaccine up until age 26, it should be given before an individual becomes sexually active, as there as been no exposure to HPV yet, and this is when it’s most effective.
It’s never recommended to cut off warts yourself, no matter what type they are, and it’s even more risky for genital warts. Although all warts come from the HPV virus the ones on the genitals are the most extreme type. They can spread quickly and easily on your body and to others. Since any attempt at cutting off these warts will produce (likely a lot of) blood, this flowing blood can help the warts spread even more. The sensitivity of the genital area will also make it very painful. Cutting off warts on the genital areas can make them develop deeper, get worse, create scars, and/or cause infection. Therefore, this should always be avoided.
Warts on the genital area which are left untreated will be more likely to worsen, and/or return even faster than treated warts. However, the HPV virus can still live in your system, regardless if the warts are removed or not. For this reason, there is always a chance that they will grow back. The body can clear itself of the HPV virus, but this may take 4 months to a couple of years, and it isn’t promised.
There are ways to help prevent genital warts from growing back, which involve strengthening your immune system. Managing stress and maintaining a healthy diet can work wonders. Some foods also trigger HPV, such as alcohol, caffeine, cheese, nuts/seeds, and yogurt. Cutting down on these may also help.
If you’re getting a medical procedure to remove genital warts, such as Cryotherapy (freezing), laser/LEEP, or surgical excision, there are precautions to take afterwards.
Recovery time will depend on many individual factors such as how many warts were removed, and the severity. It usually will take 1-3 weeks to fully heal, but patients can often resume normal activities within a few days.
After a Cryotherapy procedure, for example, there may be irritation, soreness, slight pain, swelling, shedding of old skin, or blisters forming, which is normal. In women, there may be a watery vaginal discharge throughout healing, and you should hold off on using tampons for 2-3 weeks.
Regardless of which medical procedure is taken to remove the warts, men and women should both avoid any sexual intercourse until the area heals, usually 1-3 weeks. The wart(s)/treated area(s) should also be left alone, meaning no touching or scratching, as this can make the infection spread.
If any abnormal symptoms such as fever, excessive or prolonged bleeding, unnatural discharge (possibly the result of an infection), or significant pain occur, you should contact your doctor right away.
Skin tags on the genitals are also possible, but they are different from warts that appear in the same area. Genital skin tags are usually not painful or bothersome unless they are tugged on, and they are connected to your skin’s surface by a tiny stalk, opposed to warts which are grow from the skin directly.
Opposed to genital warts, skin tags are harmless, and not caused by sexual contact or the HPV virus. These blemishes are usually just caused by friction, and tea tree oil may also work on skin tags to get rid of them.
As mentioned there are a few different types of warts, and they can realistically appear anywhere on the body. Fingers and toes are usually victim to Common warts, Flat warts typically show up on the face, legs, or arms, Filiform warts also appear on the face, as well as the neck and chin. Plantar warts only grow on the soles of the feet, and Periungual warts are the type which grows under and around nail beds of the fingers and toes. However, warts are not limited to these areas and can show up all over.
Clearly, warts also grow on the genitals, and in the case of these specific warts, they can show up in different areas for men and women.
In men, genital warts can appear on the tip or shaft of the penis, around the scrotum, or around the anus. For women, they usually exist on the external and internal areas of the vagina, on the cervix, or around the anus as well.
If you want to remove warts in the genital area, sometimes the best option will be a topical agent prescribed by a doctor. OTC wart remover products that typically work well on other types of warts are not ideal for treating genital warts, and are not meant for the moist skin in these areas of the body. Not only will they probably not work, these medications can exacerbate symptoms, causing more pain and/or irritation.
Some medical treatments that are applied directly to the skin to heal warts in the genital area include:
These topical agents can be super effective, but there also may be side effects for each of them. Consulting your doctor will help you decide what the best treatment option is.
Last updated on June 10th, 2020