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Understanding the signs and symptoms of genital warts

Even if you have no visible warts, it is still possible to have genital warts. Human papillomavirus (HPV) can remain dormant for more than a year in your body before you start getting the warts. So, to identify the infection, it is important that you know the signs of genital warts.

You may think that it's relatively easy to spot genital warts given that they're usually visible, but considering they can develop inside the body it's important to understand the signs that could indicate you've been infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes the condition.

What's more, given that you can contract HPV and not develop the small, fleshy growths for up to a year, if a partner notices they've got genital warts then it's important to keep checking yourself over.

Here we're going to look at symptoms of genital warts, where they can emerge and what impact they can have on the body.

The warts:

Understandably, warts affect men and women differently. In females they usually start out as small, gritty-feeling lumps that gradually become larger. In men, the warts look similar to those that commonly emerge on people's hands - that is to say firm and raised with a surface that is rough to the touch.

The nature of the warts depends on the individual - some experience the growth of single warts, while others get warts in clusters that looks like cauliflower.

While the warts tend to be painless, in some cases they may cause itching or irritation - especially if they're growing around the anus - and it isn't unheard of for people to notice their warts bleeding during sex.

If warts develop near or inside the urethra then they can disrupt the flow of urine, which is another thing to watch out for if you think you may have contracted HPV.

HPV in men:

Males suffering from HPV can have warts develop in a variety of different areas, but commonly they will emerge on the shaft of the penis - usually just below the foreskin. This happens in about 50 per cent of all cases of genital warts.

In one in three male sufferers of HPV, genital warts will develop around the anus, while they'll emerge on the head of the penis and inside the urethra in one in ten instances.

Warts can develop elsewhere too, and in rare cases a man may notice them underneath the foreskin - as well as between the anus and the scrotum, or even on the scrotum itself.

HPV in women:

Genital warts can emerge in various places around the female genitalia, and usually appear as small lumps that feel slightly gritty.

Most commonly, women with HPV will notice warts around the vulva - the opening of the vagina - while they're often found inside the vagina too.

Many females will also see the warts emerge in between the anus and the vagina, while others may experience them developing around the anus.

Warts can grow on the cervix too, and sometimes at the opening of the urethra.

If you notice any suspect-looking growths in any of these areas then it is important to seek the advice of a doctor who will be able to determine the nature of your condition and let you know if you need treatment for genital warts.