If you don’t know what genital warts look like, it’s hard to determine if you’ve got them. Usually, they resemble small, pink or white bumps. They may look like the warts you find on your finger, or they may be much smaller. Some are so small that you can’t see them individually, but see only a group of them as a cluster.
Even a good doctor may have trouble seeing genital warts because of their size. It’s also hard to distinguish genital warts from normal bumps, abrasions or pinched skin. One way that physicians can check is by putting acetic acid on the area. When this happens, the warts will turn white. Doctors also use a colposcope, a lens that works like a telescope, to see the area more clearly. These are two methods used to determine if the bumps are genital warts.
About half of all people with HPV, the virus that causes warts, never have any wart outbreaks. Sometimes the warts look very un-wart-like; they may just be a slightly raised portion of the skin. They come in all sizes, and may appear either alone or in groups.
Men who have HPV may get warts either on their penis, on their scrotum, in their urethra, or around their anus. Warts found around the penis are often smooth on top, but those that are found around the anus are often rough, with projections that come off like fingers. Most warts have a pearly but slightly dark look, and the shapes resemble cauliflower. Usually, genital warts stand well off the skin, but occasionally they may be elevated only a little bit. It may be hard to see warts in the genital area because they might be hiding under pubic hair.
For women, genital warts look pretty much the same as those that men get. They are found around the vagina, where there is a lot of moisture. If there are genital warts on the outside, you should see a doctor so that they can see if there are more inside the vagina, cervix or anorectal areas. In women, some types of this virus can lead to serious health problems such as cervical cancer, so genital warts should be examined and treated immediately by a doctor.
The first step in identifying and treating HPV is to know what genital warts look like. This way, you will know if you may have the virus. If you find anything you suspect might be genital warts, talk to your doctor immediately. They may be genital warts, or it may be a false alarm. It’s important to know right away.