Symptoms of genital warts 

Most people who have an HPV infection will not develop any visible warts. If genital warts do appear, it can be several weeks, months or even years after you first came into contact with the virus.

The warts may appear as small, fleshy growths, bumps or skin changes anywhere on the genitals or around the anus. In some cases, the warts are so small they are difficult to notice.

A person can have a single wart or clusters of multiple warts that grow together to form a kind of "cauliflower" appearance.

Warts in women

The most common places for genital warts to develop in women are:

  • around the vulva (the opening of the vagina)
  • on the cervix (the neck of the womb)
  • inside the vagina
  • around or inside the anus
  • on the upper thighs

Warts in men

The most common places for genital warts to develop in men are:

  • anywhere on the penis
  • on the scrotum
  • inside the urethra (tube where urine comes out)
  • around or inside the anus
  • on the upper thighs

Other symptoms

Warts are usually painless, although on some people they can become itchy and inflamed. If a wart becomes inflamed, it may lead to bleeding from the urethra, vagina or anus.

The urethra is the tube connected to the bladder, which urine passes through. Warts that develop near or inside the urethra can also disrupt the normal flow of urine.

See treatment of genital warts for more information.

When to seek medical advice

You should always seek medical advice if you suspect you have genital warts, or a recent or current sexual partner develops genital warts.

Even if no warts have developed, you can be given advice on how to check yourself and what to do if they appear. 

Treatments are only available with a prescription and may need to be applied by a nurse or doctor. It is also important to get a proper diagnosis in case the growth is not a genital wart.

If you do need a prescription treatment for warts, these are free from sexual health and genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics.

Find sexual health services near you, including sexual health and GUM clinics.

Read more information about diagnosing genital warts.

It is recommended you avoid having sex until your genital warts are fully healed.

Do you have an STI?

Many people don't get symptoms with a sexually transmitted infection, but here are the danger signs you might notice

Page last reviewed: 22/08/2014

Next review due: 22/08/2016