Hesperian Health Guides

Growths (Warts) on the Genitals

Warts are caused by a virus. Warts on the genitals look like warts on other parts of the body. It is possible to have genital warts and not know it, especially when they are inside the vagina or inside the tip of the penis. Warts may go away without treatment, but it can take a long time. Usually they continue to get worse and should be treated.

In women, these bumps usually grow on the folds of the vulva, inside the vagina' and around the anus.
illustration of the above: many small bumps near the vagina
  • itching
  • small, painless, whitish or brownish bumps that have a rough surface
illustration of the above: many small bumps on the penis
In men, they usually grow on the penis, (or just inside it) and on the scrotum, or the anus.
IMPORTANT! Large, flat, wet growths that look like warts may be a sign of syphilis (see the next page). Try to get a test for syphilis, and DO NOT use the following treatment.

Your partner should use condoms during sex until you both have no more warts.

  1. Put some petroleum gel or other greasy ointment on the skin around each wart to protect the healthy skin.
  2. With a small stick or tooth pick, carefully put on a very small amount of trichloracetic acid (TCA) until the wart turns white. You can also use bichloracetic acid (BCA).

    Apply 0.5% podofilox solution with a cotton swab, or gel with your finger. Do not use podofilox while you are pregnant.

Warts grow faster during pregnancy. If you have a lot of them, this can cause problems with childbirth. Talk with a health worker about this.

If the treatment is working, it will cause a painful sore where the wart used to be. Keep the sores clean and dry. Try not to have sex until they are gone, but if you must have sex, your partner should use a condom. The sores should heal within a week or two. Watch them to make sure they do not get infected.

Several treatments are usually necessary to get rid of all the warts. See the “Medicines Pages” for more information. You can repeat the treatment after one week. Try not to get acid on a sore where a wart used to be. If there is too much irritation, wait longer before the next treatment.

This page was updated:21 May 2021