Genital warts

Causes and symptoms of genital warts

Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a very common sexually transmitted infection. There are more than 100 different types of HPV, but two specific strains cause 90 percent of all genital warts.


A person may contract HPV from oral sex, vaginal sex, or anal sex. Genital warts may not develop until weeks or months after infection. Rarely, genital warts can pass from mother to child during vaginal birth.

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Treatment and prevention of genital warts

HPV vaccination

The HPV vaccination can prevent HPV infection and the development of genital warts. You must be vaccinated before beginning sexual activity, and the vaccination must include protection against the HPV strains that cause genital warts. Some HPV vaccines only protect against the high-risk cancer-causing strains of HPV, which can also cause genital warts.


The HPV virus spreads through skin-to-skin contact. Using latex condoms and dental dams during sexual intercourse and oral sex decreases, but does not eliminate, your risk of contracting genital warts. That is because condoms and dental dams do not fully cover the genital area.

How to get rid of genital warts

If you develop genital warts, and they do not cause any uncomfortable symptoms, you may not need medical treatment. Often, genital warts go away without treatment.


If genital warts are causing embarrassment or uncomfortable symptoms, our experts at Dignity Health can remove them. Common methods for removing genital warts include:

  • Prescription medication
  • Cryotherapy (the use of extreme cold to destroy warts)
  • Electrocautery (the use of electricity to remove warts)
  • Laser therapy (the use of light to eliminate warts)

Some prescription medications are applied at home; others are applied by your doctor in a medical office. Cryotherapy, electrocautery, and laser therapy are in-office procedures.


Treatment removes genital warts but may not eliminate the HPV infection. It is possible for warts to recur after treatment, but they rarely cause any long-term problems. Talk with your gynecologist to discuss your treatment and prevention options for genital warts in NV, AZ, and CA.