Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Genital warts

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Genital warts are lumps that appear in the genital area, cervix, anus and rectum (back passage), and sometimes around your mouth.
  • They are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which spreads through sexual contact.
  • There are many types of HPV — the types that cause genital warts don't cause cancer.
  • Genital warts can be removed with creams, cryotherapy or laser, but treatment won't get rid of the virus itself, which usually clears up by itself within 2 years.
  • You can reduce your risk of genital warts by using condoms and being vaccinated.

What are genital warts?

Genital warts are lumps on genital areas, such as the vagina, vulva, penis and scrotum. They are sexually transmitted and very common.

The warts can also appear on your cervix, around your anus and rectum (back passage), in your urethra (the tube that carries urine out of your body) or around your mouth.

What are the symptoms of genital warts?

Genital warts are usually painless, but they may be itchy. They can be bumpy, flat or appear in clusters.

If you have genital warts, you might also notice:

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

What causes genital warts?

Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). You can catch the HPV virus through skin-to-skin contact during vaginal, anal or oral sex, or by sharing sex toys.

There are about 40 types of HPV that can infect the genital and anal area. Some types can cause warts — the most common are HPV types 6 and 11. Other types of HPV are associated with cancers, such as cervical cancer and anal cancer. The types of HPV that cause genital warts are unlikely to cause cancer.

Genital warts are very contagious, and about 2 in every 3 people who have sex with someone infected with genital warts will catch the virus. The warts will usually appear within 3 months of contact. If you have HPV but no symptoms, you can still pass it on to someone else. Most people who have HPV don't have warts, so they don't know they are infected.

If you have had one type of HPV, you could still be infected by other types.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have symptoms of genital warts, see your doctor.

If you have warts inside your anus, you might need to see a surgeon. If you have warts on your cervix, you might need to see a gynaecologist.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

How are genital warts diagnosed?

A doctor will usually diagnose genital warts by looking at the bumps on your skin. Occasionally, you might need to have a biopsy to make sure they are not cancerous.

The doctor may suggest you are checked for other sexually transmitted infections at the same time.

How are genital warts treated?

Genital warts may clear up without treatment. However, if they are painful, unsightly, itchy or uncomfortable they can be treated.

Treatment doesn't get rid of the virus itself, just the warts. Your immune system will usually clear the virus within 1 to 2 years. However, in some people the virus may not go away.

Treatment options include:

  • wart paint
  • freezing the warts with liquid nitrogen (also called cryotherapy)
  • laser treatment
  • cream to trigger the immune system to fight the HPV virus
  • surgery

Treatments for other types of warts are not suitable for genital warts. See your doctor to discuss treatment options.

It's best not to wax or shave in areas with genital warts, as this can cause the warts to spread.

Can genital warts be prevented?

The HPV vaccine protects you against HPV types 6 and 11, which cause most genital warts. It also protects you against most of the types of HPV that cause cancer. However, the vaccine doesn't protect against all types of HPV.

If you have a cervix, are aged 25 to 74 and have ever been sexually active, you should have a cervical screening test every 5 years. The cervical screening test detects HPV and has replaced the Pap smear.

Safe sex can reduce your risk of catching genital warts.

Condoms reduce the risk of infection by HPV, but don't completely stop the spread of the virus. However, condoms provide protection against other sexually transmitted infections and are an important part of safe sex for many people.

What are the complications of genital warts?

Remember, if you have genital warts you are not at higher risk of cancers in the genital area.

HPV types 6 and 11 can cause a rare but serious condition called recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, which causes warts in the airways and lungs.

If you give birth while you have genital warts, there is a risk your baby could get warts in their throat. In rare cases, they could develop recurrent respiratory papillomatosis.

Resources and support

For more information about genital warts, HPV or cervical cancer, visit your doctor or local sexual health clinic, or find out about sexual health services for your state or territory at Family Planning Alliance Australia.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2022

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Genital Warts (HPV) | Body Talk

Genital warts are caused by some types of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Find out all the facts about Genital Warts here.

Read more on Body Talk website

What are genital warts? - Sexual Health Victoria

What are genital warts and human papillomavirus (HPV)? How do you get genital warts? How would I know if I have genital warts? What does a test involve? How are

Read more on Sexual Health Victoria website

Genital warts -

Genital warts are are small, soft lumps in the genital area caused by some types of human papillomavirus (HPV). They are among the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Read more on myDr website

Genital Warts - what it is, how to prevent it, and how to treat it

Genital Warts are warts on the skin of your genitals (vagina, penis) and perianal area (the skin around the anus) caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is very common. In fact, more than 75% of people will have this type of infection at some point in their life.

Read more on NSW Health website

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccination | Family Planning NSW

What is human papillomavirus (HPV)? HPV is a virus that can cause genital warts and some types of cancer including cervical cancer (cancer of the neck of the uterus). There are more than 100 types of HPV - about 40 of them can affect the genitals which includes the penis, vulva, vagina and cervix and anus. In most cases, HPV infections are cleared naturally by the body within

Read more on Family Planning Australia website

Human papillomavirus | Pathology Tests Explained

The test is done to screen (or monitor treatment) for an infection by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a virus that can cause skin warts and genital warts (al

Read more on Pathology Tests Explained website

Warts - Better Health Channel

Warts can be stubborn, so you may need to use more than one type of treatment.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

HPV vaccination | Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation

HPV (human papillomavirus) is a viral infection transmitted sexually. The HPV vaccine can reduce your risk of HPV, genital warts and HPV-related cancers.

Read more on Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation website

HPV vaccination | NCIRS

Read about HPV vaccination and vaccine safety

Read more on National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) website

Cervical cancer screening; what you need to know | Know Pathology Know Healthcare

What are the symptoms of cervical cancer? When should I get tested? What if my test is positive? Find out the answer to your cervical cancer screening question

Read more on Know Pathology Know Healthcare website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.