Ditch the shame – and get treatment
Genital warts don’t cause serious health problems. But they can be distressing or uncomfortable, and make you feel self-conscious, embarrassed or ashamed.
“Unfortunately, there can still be a stigma attached to STDs, perhaps especially for women,” says Dr Ann Nainan, family doctor and Healthily expert. “This can mean you might not want to accept there’s a problem, or get help for it. But remember, having an STD doesn’t mean you’ve been ‘sleeping around’ – it only takes 1 infected partner.”
Find out more about women and STDs in our eye-opening article.
If you’re worried you might have genital warts, know that:
- they’re really common – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says about 1 in 100 sexually active US adults has genital warts at any given time
- they’re only caused by certain types of HPV – there are more than 150 types of the virus, and genital warts are mostly caused by only 2 types. So having an HPV infection doesn’t mean you’ll get genital warts (read more about HPV below)
- it’s important to get the right diagnosis – so you can talk to your doctor about your options, and avoid spreading genital warts to other people
- if you do have them, there are good treatments available. You also need to work out if you need to tell a partner. Read more about talking to your partner about an STD
HPV: what you need to know
HPV is thought to be the most common STI in the world. “It’s estimated that about 80% of women will be infected by HPV at least once,” says Dr Ann.
But often, you can have an HPV infection – and pass it on – without knowing it. This can be because:
- you don’t have any symptoms – HPV mostly doesn’t cause any symptoms, such as genital warts
- you have genital warts, but you don’t notice them – because they’re very small, or inside your vagina
In 9 out of 10 cases, HPV goes away on its own without causing any problems – your body can usually fight it off within about 2 years.
But when it doesn’t go away, it can sometimes lead to more serious conditions, including cervical cancer.
Read more about HPV, including how to protect yourself with a shot and regular cervical screening.