Genital Warts and HPV in Men

Genital warts, also known as condylomata acuminata, are small, fleshy growths that can result from an infection by the human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. Different strains of HPV can infect the genitalia, mouth, and throat of men and women.

Causes of Genital Warts

Genital warts are caused by human papillomavirus. There are more than 100 types of HPV that can affect the genital areas, mouth, or throat. One-third of these are spread through sexual contact.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were an approximately 42 million HPV infections in 2018 with an estimated 13 million new cases.

What They Look Like

Genital warts are small, flesh-colored, cauliflower-shaped growths. They don't cause pain or discomfort.

Males infected with HPV do not get warts as often as females do. When they occur in males, warts usually appear on the tip of the penis but may also appear on the shaft. Warts can also appear on the scrotum or around the anus (even without anal sex).

Sometimes HPV infections can be found around and inside the mouth and in the throat of those who have had oral sex with an infected person.

Can You Have HPV But Not Genital Warts?

Yes. Studies have indicated that it is common for both men and women to have HPV without symptoms. You can infect others even if you don't have symptoms. Once you become infected, it can take up to three months for genital warts to appear.

According to the CDC, HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active males and females will come in contact with the virus at some point in their lives.

Diagnosis

Anogenital warts can usually be diagnosed by visual inspection. However, not all warts are obvious to the naked eye. An internal examination of the anus may be carried out to check for hidden warts.

In some cases, a biopsy may be needed if the diagnosis is uncertain.

Often, the virus is not detected with standard testing, but it can still be spread during sexual activity even with a negative test.

If you believe you have been in contact with HPV and are experiencing symptoms, see a healthcare provider who will be able to advise you on treatment.

Treatment

Unfortunately, like most viruses, there is no treatment that will get rid of the HPV virus itself. But in most cases, HPV goes away on its own and usually does not cause any health problems.

Genital warts can be treated, but they may reappear at a later stage. Treatment for genital warts depends on size and location.

Treatments include the following prescription medications:

  • Imiquimod, an immune response cream applied to the affected area
  • 20% podophyllin anti-mitotic solution applied to the affected area and washed off later
  • 0.5% podofilox solution applied to the affected area
  • 5% 5-fluorouracil cream
  • Trichloroacetic acid (TCA)

It's possible to experience some pain or skin irritation after applying these topical medications, especially 5-fluorouracil cream. Consult your healthcare provider if you have an uncomfortable reaction to any of these treatments.

Small warts can be surgically treated by:

  • Laser
  • Cryosurgery (freezing them off)
  • Electrocautery (burning them off)
  • Surgical excision

The anti-viral drug alpha-interferon can also be used either systemically or locally (injected directly into the warts). However, the drug is very expensive and research studies investigating effectiveness have yielded mixed results.

You may require more than one type of treatment to make the warts go away permanently.

Prevention

There is currently one HPV vaccine (Gardasil-9) available in the U.S. It is approved for males and females ages 9 to 45 to help prevent infection. The vaccine is most effective when given before HPV exposure. Therefore, it is primarily recommended for those 26 and younger.

Those who are sexually active can also reduce their chances of infection by using condoms and limiting their number of sex partners.

As previously mentioned, there is no treatment currently available for the HPV virus itself, but the virus often resolves on its own. Genital warts, a symptom of the disease, do respond to treatment, but they can reoccur.

Treatment for genital warts should be sought and completed before resuming sexual contact.

Can Condoms Prevent Genital Wart Infection?

A condom can provide some protection, particularly if it covers the area affected by warts. However, it is still possible to transmit HPV even if there are no visible warts present.

Good hygiene is important. Keep your genitals clean and dry, and do not use scented soaps and bath oils, as these may irritate warts. If your partner uses vaginal deodorants, they should know that these can also be irritating.

Possible Complications

It is estimated that 99% of cervical cancers are caused by HPV. Some types of HPV can also cause anal and penile cancer, as well as vulvar cancer.

If a partner has abnormal cervical cells detected in a Pap test, it is important that they have regular pelvic examinations and Pap tests so that cancer can be treated as quickly as possible. Early detection of cancer increases cure rates.

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9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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