Many people don't realize they have the HPV virus because they don't know what genital warts look like. Genital warts look like small, flesh, pinkish colored bumps. Genital warts vary greatly in size. Some may not be seen at all until they appear in clusters.
Genital warts are sometimes too small to see, even by a trained clinician. Also, it can be hard to tell the difference between wart and normal bumps in the genital area because genital warts look like small bumps. Because they can be difficult to see, some medical providers put acetic acid (vinegar) on your genital area to check for warts. This causes the warts to turn white, which makes them easier to see, especially if they are viewed through a special magnifying lens called a colposcope.
Not everyone who has the wart virus will have visible warts. Genital warts may look like small round growths or they may be flat and only slightly raised from the skin. Genital warts may be single or multiple, small or large.
In men, genital warts can infect the uretha, penis, scrotum and rectal areas. The genital warts look like soft, raised masses with a surface that can be smooth (on the penile shaft) or rough with many fingerlike projections (anal warts). Other genital warts look pearly, cauliflower-like or rough with a slightly dark surface. Most genital warts are raised but some may be flat with only slight elevation above the skin surface. Infection with HPV may be dormant or undetectable, with some lesions hidden by hair.
In women, genital warts look like male genital warts and usually occur in the moist areas around the vaginal opening. Lesions visible on the outer genitals require a thorough examination of the vaginal canal, cervix and anorectal area. Women who have lesions that look like genital warts should seek immediate medical treatment because some strains of the HPV virus can lead to more serious conditions.
It is important for you to understand what genital warts look like so you will know if you have been infected with HPV. If you have lesions in your genital area that look like genital warts, it is important to see your doctor right away. Some lesions that look like genital warts may actually be another type of infection that will need a different treatment regimen than genital warts.
GlossaryColposcope: A powerful magnifying lens that is used in the diagnosis of genital warts.
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