Young People's Guide to
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
and AIDS/HIV Disease
Table of Contents
- Caused by a virus (the Human Papilloma Virus or HPV)
- Appear as one or many raised lumps or bumps
- They appear 1 month to 1 year after having sex with an infected person.
- Often cannot be seen in women because they may be all inside the vagina. May also
be too small in men and women to be easily seen.
- More serious in women because they may change into cancer.
Genital warts are among the most common STDs. An estimated one million people get
warts each year in the US.
What causes genital warts?
The warts are caused by a virus called the Human Papilloma Virus or HPV. The time
from the exposure to the virus until symptoms show up is called the incubation period.
The incubation period for the development of warts varies from one month to eighteen
months with the most common incubation between three to four months.
It is passed from person to person by direct contact. The virus is scraped off the
skin during sex and is passed to the other person where it grows into a wart.
What do they look like?
The wart looks like a raised area or bump on the skin. There are often many bumps
and they are usually flesh-colored. They may be on the penis, scrotum, vagina (inside
or out), anus. They vary in size and may be so small that they can't be easily seen
without special equipment.
How are warts diagnosed?
There is no good culture or blood test but a doctor or health provider who is experienced
can usually make the diagnosis just by examining it. There is a test called an acid
wrap that is sometimes helpful in making the diagnosis. In this test a piece of gauze or cloth soaked in vinegar (which is 5% acetic acid) is wrapped around the genitals
and let stay in place for ten minutes. If warts are present, they usually turn white
and they are easier to detect. In some cases, the warts are too small to be seen
and in women, they may be inside the vagina and be hidden from view. A PAP smear which
is normally used to detect cancer of the cervix may also detect the virus (HPV).
How are they treated?
There are no pills that will cure warts but they can be treated. There are several
different possible treatments including: surgery, freezing, laser or destroying them
by applying a chemical (podophyllum or bi or trichloro acetic acid) that kills the
virus. It often takes several visits to the health provider to remove all the warts. It
is important to return to the health provider after treatment to make sure they are
Are there any complications of warts?
If warts are untreated, you run the risk of transmitting them to any sex partner that
you have unprotected sex with. In women, they may also progress into a cancer of
the cervix. This type of cancer is detected by a PAP smear. Women should have a PAP
smear whenever they change sex partners that they have unprotected sex with. A PAP smear
is a test that checks for cancer of the cervix. Cancer of the cervix is a fairly
common cancer in women and although it is serious, it is easily treated if found
Back to Table of Contents