Genital warts are small fleshy growths, bumps or skin changes that appear on or around the genital or anal area.

Genital warts are very common. In England, they are the second most common type of sexually transmitted infection (STI) after chlamydia .

Genital warts are the result of a viral skin infectioncaused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). Theyare usually painless and do not pose a serious threat to health.

But they canbe unpleasant to look atand cause psychological distress.

There is no evidence that your fertility will be affected by genital warts.

Around 90% ofall cases of genital warts are caused by two strains of the virustype 6 and type 11.

The types of HPV that cause visible genital warts do not cause genital cancer. Other strains of HPV can cause cervical cancer .

How do they spread?

Genital warts can be spread during vaginal or anal sex, and by sharing sex toys.But you don't need to have penetrative sex to pass the infection on because HPV is spread by skin-to-skin contact.

So if you're in a relationship and you get genital warts, it does not necessarily mean your partner has been having sex with other people.

HPV is most likely to be transmitted to others when warts are present, although it is still possible to pass the virus on before the warts have developed and after they have disappeared.

Condoms do not provide complete protection because it is possible for the skin around your genital area not covered by the condom to become infected.

It is possible to have more than one STI at a time, so if you think you have warts, it is a good idea to have a check-up.

You can make an appointment at your local sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic.

You can go to a sexual health clinic whatever age you are. If you're under 16, the service is still confidential and the clinic won't tell your parents. Find your local sexual health or GUM clinic .

The treatment for genital warts depends on how many warts you have and where they are. Several treatments are available, such as liquids orcreams and freezing the warts (cryotherapy).

You should not use wart creams that are available over the counter because they are designed to only treat warts on the hands or verrucas.

If you are diagnosed with genital warts, itis recommended you do not have sex, including anal and oral sex, until your genital warts have fully healed. This will help prevent you passing the infection on to others. It will also help speed up your recovery.

Learn more in treating genital warts .

Will the warts come back?

Some people only ever get one episode of genital warts. For many others, the warts will come back weeks, months or years later.

If you do develop a new wart, it is not possible to say if these area result ofthe original infection or a new infection with HPV.

Who is affected?

Both men and women can be affected by genital warts. According to Public Health England, in 2012there were 73,893 new cases of genital warts diagnosed by GUM clinics in England. This compares with206,912 new cases of chlamydia in 2012.

Genital warts are most common in sexually active teenagers and young adults. The highest rates of genital warts occur in menaged 20 to 24years and women aged 16 to 19 years.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 20 Jan 2017