Hesperian Health Guides

Genital Warts

Warts are caused by a virus. Warts on the genitals are softer than warts on other parts of the body and there are usually more of them. It is possible to have warts inside the vagina or inside the tip of the penis and not know it. While warts may eventually go away, usually they continue to get worse and should be treated. Because genital warts can look like an early sign of syphilis, test for syphilis before treating for warts, and if it is syphilis, treat it right away.

Warts grow faster during pregnancy and might bleed during childbirth, which could infect the baby. A pregnant woman with warts should consult a health worker to see if she should give birth in a hospital by caesarean surgery (C-section).

a woman's genitals with sores
  • small, firm, whitish or brownish skin growths that have a rough surface. In women they grow on the lips of the vagina, inside the vagina, or around the anus. In men they usually grow on the penis but also may grow on the scrotum or anus.
  • sometimes the warts itch
a man's genitals with sores
a woman's genitals with sores and a hand applying medicine to them

Several treatments given once a week are usually necessary. The health worker usually applies the first treatment and may show you how to treat at home or have you return for treatments. Medicines include trichloroacetic acid (TCA), bichloracetic acid (BCA), or podofilox.


Wear a condom during sex if you or your partner has genital warts or avoid sex until they are gone. The vaccine that prevents Human papilloma virus (HPV) helps prevent genital warts.

This page was updated:16 Oct 2019