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Genital warts are skin-colored or whitish bumps that appear on your genitals or anus. You can also have the virus that causes genital warts but not have any symptoms.

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Genital Warts Symptoms

Genital warts look like skin-colored or whitish bumps that show up on your vulva, vagina, cervix, penis, scrotum, or anus. They kind of look like little pieces of cauliflower. You can have just one wart or a bunch of them, and they can be big or small. They might be itchy, but most of the time they don’t hurt.

Not all bumps on the genitals are warts. There are other infections and normal skin conditions that might look like a wart but are something else. If you think you have genital warts, it’s important to get checked out by a nurse or doctor.   

When do genital warts usually develop?

It can take several weeks, months, or even years after you have sexual contact with someone who has genital warts for them to show up. That’s why it’s so hard to know when you got the HPV infection that caused them, or who passed it to you.

You can get the virus and never actually get warts, so you could be infected and not have any symptoms. Some people only get warts once, and then never get them again. Some people have warts develop more than once (recurring).

If you get genital warts, you might think that means your partner has been cheating on you. That’s not necessarily true. It can sometimes take a really long time for warts to show up, so it’s possible that you or your partner might have gotten them a long time ago. Sometimes the virus lives months or even years in the body before turning into genital warts.

Fun fact: You can have the HPV type that causes warts and never have any symptoms yourself, but STILL give it to someone else. And then genital warts can show up on them. So knowing exactly when you got genital warts (and who gave them to you) is complicated. Talking with your partner and a doctor or nurse can help.

More questions from patients:

What are the symptoms of HPV genital warts in women?

Most people with HPV warts don’t have any symptoms besides the warts themselves. HPV generally goes away on its own without causing any health problems. If it does cause warts, it can take months for them to show up.

The symptoms of HPV warts in women include small bumps or groups of bumps in the genital area. Warts can show up inside or outside the vagina, in or around the anus, or on the cervix. You can’t always see the bumps. They can be

  • small or large

  • flesh-colored or slightly darker

  • raised or flat

  • smooth or bumpy (like cauliflower)

HPV warts in women might go away, stay the same, or grow in size or number. They’re usually painless. You might also be itchy down there or have unusual vaginal discharge.

If you have warts or red bumps on or around your genitals, if your partner has been diagnosed with HPV or another STD, or if your partner has warts, check in with your doctor or nurse or contact your local Planned Parenthood health center. They can usually diagnose HPV warts by taking a look.

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