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Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0

Genital Warts

DESCRIPTION (Diagnosis must be confirmed by a physician.)

  • Similar to common warts but located in the genital area
  • Single or multiple soft, fleshy, small growths shaped like little cauliflowers on the skin, colored light pink or gray
  • Found around or in the penis, rectum, vagina, or cervix
  • Usually seen 1 to 6 months after a person has been infected.


Genital warts are a sexually transmitted disease caused by a virus. The virus that causes them belongs to the virus group called human papillomavirus (HPV). Another name for these warts is condylomata acuminata. It takes weeks to months for warts to develop after you are exposed. For this reason it is sometimes difficult to know who has infected you if you have been sexually active with more than one person.

Women with genital warts are at an increased risk of developing cervical cancer.


Like warts on other parts of the body, genital warts usually clear with treatment but they may return months or years later. Treatment may require one or many visits.


  1. Podophyllin

    Podophyllin is a liquid solution that is painted directly on the wart. It can be irritating to the skin and needs to be completely washed off 4 hours after it is applied. If the warts are still present after one week, additional treatments will be necessary. Women who are or may be pregnant should not use podophyllin.

  2. Liquid nitrogen

    Liquid nitrogen is a very cold gas that is applied directly to the wart. It can be irritating to the skin and the affected area might become red and swollen about 2 hours after "freezing." If the warts are still present after one week, additional treatments will be necessary.

  3. Other methods of treatment

    When podophyllin or liquid nitrogen therapy fails, it might be necessary to remove the warts, either by laser therapy or surgical excision. These methods of treatment involve referral to a gynecologist or urologist.

  4. Contacts

    Tell your sexual partner about the warts so he or she may be treated if he or she has warts.

  5. Prevention

    Because genital warts are sexually transmitted, there are ways that you can help prevent the spread of this infection. Not having sexual intercourse (abstinence) is the best method of prevention. Use of condoms is the next best method. In addition, you are less likely to get a sexually transmitted disease if you have just one sexual partner.

    Women who have had genital warts have an increased risk of developing cervical cancer. Every woman (with or without genital warts) should get a yearly pelvic exam and pap smear.


  • You have any additional questions or concerns.

Written by David W. Kaplan, M.D., and the staff of the Adolescent Medicine Center, The Children's Hospital, Denver, Colorado.
Copyright 1999 Clinical Reference Systems