Genital warts are one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the United States and are caused by some types of human papillomavirus (HPV).
Genital warts—also known as anogenital warts or condylomata acuminata—are raised lesions that develop on the skin and mucous membranes after infection with some types of HPV, a virus transmitted through contact during sexual activity.
Most commonly, genital warts appear clustered as a few small, raised lesions, but their appearance varies. They can be flesh-colored, light and pearly, or dark purple, gray, or brown. There may be many or only one. They may be small and difficult to see or they may enlarge and combine into masses. They can be rounded bumps or flat plaques; they may be smooth or rough. They are generally painless but may itch or become irritated.
In men, genital warts may be found on the scrotum, on the shaft of the penis, and in and around the tip of the penis. In women, genital warts may be found on the vulva, in the vagina, and on the cervix.
There are more than 100 types of HPV, and more than 40 types infect the genitals. Types 6 and 11 cause most genital warts. Others cause warts found on the hands and feet. Many people infected with HPV have no symptoms but can still transmit the infection to others. There is no treatment for the virus, but the infection can go away on its own. Most people are infected with HPV at some time during their lives.
Who Is at Risk?
People who have unprotected sex or multiple partners or who start having sex at a younger age; people between 16 and 25 years old; and those who are infected with other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are at increased risk.