Genital warts are sexually transmitted infections caused by the human papillomavirus.
The virus is typically passed on through skin-to-skin contact with the affected areas during sexual contact. The virus is more contagious when warts are present but can still be passed on up to three months after warts have cleared.
It is also possible for genital warts to spread from the genitals to the anus without having anal sex. Warts from other areas of the body, such as the hands and mouth, can be passed to the genitals, but this is rare. Genital warts are not transmitted through kissing, sharing baths or towels, toilet seats, swimming pools or sharing glassware and cutlery.
There is no cure for HPV, though the immune system can eradicate the virus. Treatments are also available for the symptoms of genital warts.
Symptoms of genital warts include:
Diagnosis of genital warts can only be done by a healthcare professional. If you suspect you have genital warts, speak to your doctor or contact your nearest sexual health clinic.
There are a couple of ways you can minimise your risk of contracting genital warts and other sexually transmitted infections. These methods include:
If you suspect you have genital warts, arrange a consultation with your doctor to get them looked at. They may refer you to a sexual health or genitourinary (GUM) clinic for treatment.
Only if you have diagnosed warts can you be offered treatment. Common treatments for genital warts are topical creams or solutions, which should be applied to the affected area a few days each week.
Antibiotics do not treat genital warts because genital warts are caused by a virus and not bacteria.
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