What Does Hpv Look Like

What Does Hpv Look Like
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Many readers are interested in the following topic: Close to Half of American Adults Infected With HPV, Survey Finds. We are happy to note, that our authors have already studied the modern research about the topic you are interested in. Based on the information provided in the latest medical digests, modern research and surveys, we provide extensive answer. Keep reading to find out more.

The report, published on Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics, also found that certain high-risk strains of the virus infected 25.1 percent of men and 20.4 percent of women. These strains account for approximately 31,000 cases of cancer each year, other studies have shown.

What Genital Warts Look Like and Where They Appear

Mary is a freelance nurse writer specializing in making healthcare and medical content accessible for people at all levels of health literacy. Her MSN in nursing education prepared her to deliver accurate and trustworthy medical information that educates and empowers the public.

Updated on June 09, 2022

Leah Ansell, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and an assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University.

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). Nearly everyone who is sexually active will acquire HPV at some point, but most people will not develop genital warts.

It is important for you to know the symptoms of genital warts. The pictures of genital warts in this article can help you recognize them. Knowing how they spread and what prevention strategies exist is important for reducing your risk and the risk of spreading them to others.

This article discusses genital warts, what they look like, where they typically occur, diagnosis, and treatment.

Types of HPV in Genital Warts

Around 150 types of HPV have been identified, and about 40 of them are known to infect the genital area. Most sexually active people will encounter some form of HPV in their lifetime, but not all types carry the same levels of risk.

Genital warts can occur from HPV types often referred to as low-risk (noncancerous). More than 90% of cases of genital warts are caused by low-risk types, namely HPV types 6 and 11.

Click Play to Learn More About Genital Warts and HPV

This video has been medically reviewed by Anita Sadaty, MD

Pictures of Genital Warts

The appearance of genital warts can vary dramatically. Warts can appear as single bumps or they can occur in groups. They can range in size from less than 1 millimeter to several centimeters in diameter if a cluster of warts merges. They can be smooth or rough and may have fingerlike projections.

The most common appearance of genital warts is as gray growths or growths the color of your skin. They can be raised or flat and can appear on, in, and around the genitals. They can grow in clusters that resemble cauliflower or appear alone. Genital warts can also be white, purple, or brown.

The timing of genital warts can vary widely from person to person. HPV infection can occur with or without the appearance of genital warts. Warts can take up to two or three months to develop on the skin.

Please note that the images below are graphic and show male and female genitalia in detail. Discretion is advised.

Genital Warts on Men

This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.

The picture above displays genital warts on the shaft of the penis. However, genital warts can appear on other parts of the penis, like around the tip of the penis and under the foreskin of an uncircumcised penis. Warts can also appear on the scrotum (as seen below).

This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.

Genital Warts on Women

This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.

Above is a photo of genital warts on the labia. However, genital warts can also appear on the vulva and cervix.

Genital Warts on the Perineum

This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.

O’Mahony C, Gomberg M, Skerlev M, et al. / J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol

The perineum is the area between the genitals and the anus. The picture above shows a case of genital warts around the vagina and the perineum.

Genital Warts on the Thighs

This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.

Cincinnati STD/HIV Prevention Training Center

The picture above displays genital warts on the upper inner thigh, but warts may also develop further down the thigh.

Anal Warts

This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.

Genital warts can appear around or inside the anus. Anal warts rarely block the anal opening.

Location of Genital Warts

Genital warts can form around or inside the genital region (i.e., the penis, vagina, anus, and perineum) and the thighs.

The location of genital warts does not always match up with areas of sexual contact. Warts usually appear at the site of reported contact. However, they can also be found at sites where people report no history of sexual contact.

Genital warts can be spread even when no warts are visible.


In most cases, healthcare providers can diagnose genital warts just from visual inspection. However, some lesions can be hard to identify. In those cases, practitioners may do a biopsy (removing a sample of tissue for examination in a lab) to confirm the diagnosis. The biopsy can confirm the presence of HPV and identify the subtype of the virus.

In addition, a special test (called a colposcopy ) using a magnified scope to look at the genitals can help healthcare providers to better see lesions inside the vagina and on the cervix.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in its 2021 guidance for screening and prevention of STIs, states that vaccination is the primary strategy for preventing HPV. Vaccination with Gardasil 9 is recommended as part of routine care beginning at age 11 or 12.

The HPV vaccine is approved to be administered as early as 9 years old. It can also be given, in some cases, up to age 45.


Verywell / Alexandra Gordon

Genital warts may go away on their own without treatment, often within one year. But it is also possible that they will grow and spread. They can also stay and remain the same size.

Treatments include prescription creams or gels you apply yourself, such as Aldara (imiquimod) and Condylox (podofilox). Your healthcare provider can also remove warts using cryotherapy or use a laser or electrosurgery (electric current) to burn them off.

With treatment, visible warts will usually go away. For some people, genital warts come back even if they follow all the steps for treatment. Even after treatment and without visible warts, you may still be able to pass HPV to sexual partners.

Over-the-counter (OTC) wart treatments that contain ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide should not be used for genital warts. These products are not designed for treating warts in the delicate genital areas.

At-Home Remedies

Seeing a healthcare professional is the best way to ensure you receive the appropriate treatment for genital warts. Some home remedies claim to help get rid of warts, but many of these are not supported by evidence and may be unsafe to try on genital warts.

One folk remedy for treating warts is the duct tape method. Some research does show that it may be effective. But this method is more appropriate for common warts on areas like the hands, feet, and arms. It should not be used on genital warts.

Some people also suggest using apple cider vinegar and tea tree oil to treat warts. However, there is a lack of research about their effectiveness in general and specifically on genital warts. In addition, these remedies may cause burning and irritation.

The most natural and evidence-supported at-home remedy for genital warts is the application of a green tea extract known as sinecatechins . Experts believe this green tea extract may have antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties that help eliminate genital warts.

Topical sinecatechins 15% ointment (sold under the brand name Veregen) is the first botanical drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating genital warts. It is prescribed by a healthcare professional and typically self-applied.

If you think you have genital warts, see a healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment. Self-identification and home-based remedies may be unsafe and are unproven. Medical professionals are trained to examine and treat private areas of the body.


Genital warts are a symptom of infection from certain types of HPV. They typically appear on the genitals but can also be found on the anus and perineum.

Any wart, bump, or growth should be evaluated by a healthcare professional. Typically, a visual examination is all that is required. Your provider can then prescribe treatment for your warts, if appropriate. At-home treatments are typically not effective or safe on the delicate skin of the genitals.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get rid of genital warts?

Genital warts are commonly treated with topical prescription medications, such as Aldara or Zyclara (imiquimod) cream, Condylox (podofilox) solution or gel, and Veregen (sinecatechins) ointment. They can also be removed using cryotherapy (using freezing or near-freezing temperatures) or surgical methods.
Although medications and other treatment methods may help clear genital warts, the virus that causes warts—HPV—may never go away, and warts may reappear.

How long do genital warts last?

When untreated, genital warts may disappear within a year, but the exact time it takes for them to clear can vary. With treatment, warts may go away faster. However, since HPV may reside in the body, warts may reappear over and over again.

What does a genital wart feel like?

Genital warts may feel rough or smooth. They usually are not painful but may cause discomfort, itching, irritation, or a burning sensation.

How long does it take for genital warts to show up?

How long it takes for genital warts to show up can vary. Some people may develop genital warts within weeks after infection. But for others, it may take months or years after infection for warts to appear.

11 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital HPV infection – fact sheet.
  2. Workowski KA, Bachmann LH, Chan PA, et al. Sexually transmitted infections treatment guidelines, 2021. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2021;70(4):1-187. doi:10.15585/mmwr.rr7004a1
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Human papillomavirus.
  4. University of Rochester Medical Center. Warts.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chapter 5: Human papillomavirus (HPV).
  6. Grennan D. Genital warts. JAMA. 2019;321(5):520. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.20181
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually transmitted infections treatment guidelines: Anogenital warts.
  8. Karnes JB, Usatine RP. Management of external genital warts. Am Fam Physician. 2014;90(5):312-318.
  9. Goldman RD. Duct tape for warts in children: Should nature take its course?Can Fam Physician. 2019;65(5):337-338.
  10. Balaji G. Sinecatechins: A better prospect for treating anogenital warts. Indian J Sex Transm Dis AIDS. 2014;35(1):75-76. doi:10.4103/0253-7184.132415
  11. Cleveland Clinic. Genital warts.

Close to Half of American Adults Infected With HPV, Survey Finds

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A magnification of stained HPV viruses. Nearly half of adult Americans are infected with genital human papillomavirus, researchers have found. Credit. Kwangshin Kim/Science Source

  • April 6, 2017

More than 42 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 59 are infected with genital human papillomavirus, according to the first survey to look at the prevalence of the virus in the adult population.

The report, published on Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics, also found that certain high-risk strains of the virus infected 25.1 percent of men and 20.4 percent of women. These strains account for approximately 31,000 cases of cancer each year, other studies have shown.

Two vaccines are effective in preventing sexually transmitted HPV infection, and researchers said the new data lend urgency to the drive to have adolescents vaccinated.

“If we can get 11- and 12-year-olds to get the vaccine, we’ll make some progress,” said Geraldine McQuillan, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and lead author of the new report.

“You need to give it before kids become sexually active, before they get infected,” Dr. McQuillan said. “By the time they’re in their mid-20s, people are infected and it’s too late. This is a vaccine against cancer — that’s the message.”

(Do you have questions about HPV? Read some answers here.)

She and her colleagues also found that 7.3 percent of Americans ages 18 to 69 were infected orally with HPV, and 4 percent were infected with the high-risk strains that can cause cancers of the mouth and pharynx.

HPV is a ubiquitous virus, the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. About 40 strains of the virus are sexually transmitted, and virtually all sexually active individuals are exposed to it by their early 20s.

The virus usually is spread through direct contact with infected genital skin or mucuous membranes during intercourse or oral sex. Over 90 percent of HPV infections are cleared by the body within two years. The figures released today were a snapshot of the prevalence of active oral HPV infection from 2011 through 2014, and active genital infection in 2013 and 2014.

Sometimes, the virus persists in the body. Chronic infections with certain strains can lead to genital warts and cancers of the cervix, vagina, penis, anus and throat. Two viral strains, HPV-16 and -18, cause almost all cervical cancers.

“One of the most striking things that we really want people to know is that high-risk HPV is common — common in the general population,” Dr. McQuillan said.

While the C.D.C. recommends routine screening for cervical cancer for all women ages 21 to 65, adults are not routinely screened for HPV infection itself. Indeed, there is no HPV test for men. (A test for women is sometimes used in conjunction with a Pap screen for cervical cancer.)

There were significant differences in rates of high-risk genital HPV infection by race and ethnicity, Dr. McQuillan and her colleagues found.

The highest rate, 33.7 percent, was found among non-Hispanic blacks; the lowest, 11.9 percent, among Asians. The prevalence of genital HPV infection was 21.6 percent among whites and 21.7 percent among Hispanics.

Men generally have somewhat higher rates than women, but among Asian and Hispanic men, the infections are not significantly more common. The reasons for these variations are not known.