Genital warts or venereal warts (condyloma accuminata) are a sexually transmitted viral infection caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is transmitted from one person to another only by sexual intercourse or other intimate contact, but condoms can give some protection against the infection. It is not possible to catch it from toilet seats or spa baths.
The incubation period varies from one to six months.
Warts, sometimes of a large size, grow on the penis in men and in the genital area of women. They initially appear as flat, pale areas on the skin, or as dark-coloured, irregularly shaped lumps. Both men and women can be carriers without being aware they are infected, and in women genital warts may develop internally where they are difficult to detect. A significant proportion of women with this infection will develop cancer of the cervix, which can only be detected at an early stage by regular Pap smears.
Anyone with genital warts should also have tests performed to check for the presence of other venereal disease.
Small warts can be more easily seen if a special stain is applied to the skin, then treatment can be given with antiviral imiquimod cream applied three times a week for up to four months, acid paints (eg. trichloroacetic acid) or acid ointments, freezing with liquid nitrogen, or burning with electric diathermy or laser. The treatment is often prolonged, and warts tend to recur, but with careful watching and rapid treatment of any recurrence the infection will eventually settle.