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Genital warts and human papilloma virus (HPV)

What is it?

Genital warts (sometimes called anogenital warts) are caused by a virus known as the human papilloma virus (HPV). There are many different types of HPV, but types 6 and 11 are the common causes of genital warts.

Warts may sometimes disappear on their own without treatment but often persist for months or even years. Warts may sometimes reappear after they seem to have gone on their own or after treatment.

Because of changes in the body’s immune system during pregnancy, warts may appear for the first time during pregnancy. During pregnancy, genital warts can be treated with cryotherapy (freezing). Having genital warts very rarely affects the baby during birth. Pregnant women with warts should be reassured that there is very little risk to their baby. If you are pregnant you should tell your doctor or nurse.

Some of the HPV types can cause cancer if not treated effectively. Cancer of the cervix (neck of the womb), vulva, vagina, anus, penis and throat have been linked to HPV types 16 and 18. (These are not the common types of HPV.) It is therefore important for women with genital warts who are aged 25 to 64 years to make sure their cervical smear is up-to-date by checking with their GP.

Worried about genital warts?

Detailed information on STIs is available on the NHS website.

See the FPA website for a range of downloadable leaflets on sexually transmitted infections.

The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) website also features a range of downloadable leaflets on STIs.