Genital warts, which are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), are the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD). Although HPV usually does not cause symptoms and often resolves without treatment, persistent HPV infection is the primary risk factor for cervical cancer in women.

Genital warts are associated with an increased risk for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS and genital herpes. Also called anogenital warts, these painless warts can occur on the external reproductive organs (e.g., penis, scrotum, vulva), anus, or cervix, and can develop in the vagina, rectum, mouth, and throat. HPV infection often is detected during a routine Pap smear. There is no cure for HPV and treatment usually involves wart removal and safer sex practices.

Here are some questions to ask your doctor (e.g., urologist, gynecologist) about genital warts and HPV infection. Print this page, check off the questions you would like answered, and bring it to your doctor's appointment. Information about HPV transmission and prevention, including the HPV vaccine, can help reduce the risk for cervical cancer caused by genital warts.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Genital Warts

  • Why do you suspect that I have genital warts caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection?
  • What kinds of tests will be performed to confirm this diagnosis? What do these tests involve?
  • How is HPV transmitted?
  • Do I have a low-risk form of HPV or a high-risk form of the virus?
  • Should my sexual partner also be tested for HPV?
  • Should my partner and I be tested for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV/AIDS? Why or why not?
  • Are there complications associated with HPV infection? If so, what are the signs of these complications?
  • Am I at risk for complications caused by HPV infection? Why or why not?
  • What should I do if I experience symptoms related to genital warts, such as pain or bleeding, or if I develop complications? Telephone number to call:
  • What type of treatment for genital warts do you recommend? Why do you recommend this treatment?
  • What are the benefits, risks, and potential side effects associated with this treatment?
  • Do you recommend genital wart removal? If so, what does this treatment involve?
  • How will I be monitored for HPV complications, such as cervical cancer or anal cancer?
  • How can I avoid transmitting this infection to my sexual partner(s)?
  • What steps can I take to lower my risk for contracting other sexually transmitted infections?
  • Who should receive the HPV vaccine?
  • Are there any side effects or risks associated with this vaccine?
  • Can you recommend any support groups for people with genital herpes or resources for more information about HPV infection?

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Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 02 Apr 2009

Last Modified: 17 Sep 2015