Genital warts are caused by certain types or strains of human papillomavirus, or HPV. Dr. Patel, what can you tell us about genital warts?
Well, Dr. Mayzik, genital warts may appear within several weeks of sexual contact, but they can sometimes take months or even years to appear. Some warts go away on their own, but others may grow and multiply over time. It's also possible for warts that go away to reappear.
Although some genital warts are too tiny to see, they usually appear as a small bump or group of bumps in the genital area. In some cases, genital warts appear as small, scattered bumps that are skin-colored or a bit darker. In other cases, they appear as a cluster of bumps that look like cauliflower. Warts can be raised or flat, and smooth or rough.
In women, genital warts can appear on the vulva, the vagina, or the cervix. In men, genital warts can appear on the penis, the scrotum, or the thigh. It's also possible for both men and women to develop genital warts on the groin, in and around the anus, and in the mouth and throat.
Pregnant women are particularly susceptible to problems caused by genital warts. Hormone changes during pregnancy can cause the warts to grow or multiply, which can make urination difficult. In addition, warts on the vaginal wall can reduce the ability of the vaginal tissues to stretch during childbirth, and large warts on the vulva or in the vagina can bleed when stretched during delivery. In some cases, especially large warts can block the birth canal altogether.
In very rare cases, genital warts can be passed to the baby during childbirth, and the baby may develop warts in the throat, which can cause breathing difficulties.
It's important to see a provider for treatment of genital warts. Over-the-counter wart medicines are intended for other types of warts and will not work for genital warts.