How To Test for Genital Warts: Diagnosis and Treatment

Genital warts are growths that can form from a human papillomavirus infection (HPV). HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI), frequently resulting in warts. Genital warts appear on genital skin and mucous membranes in or around the vulva, penis, urethra, vagina, cervix, and anus. 

Genital wart testing can help you understand your treatment options. In many scenarios, genital warts do not require treatments unless they’re causing discomfort. However, without the proper vaccinations, they can develop into cervical cancer. Read on to learn about testing for genital warts. 

How Do I Know if I Have Genital Warts?

Genital warts cause growths across the skin. You may notice visible warts or feel symptoms indicating internal warts, like itching and burning while urinating. Some warts may look more flat and isolated, while other people may have cauliflower-shaped heads that cluster together. 

You may not feel anything from warts, though more irritating cases can cause the following symptoms:

  • Mild bleeding
  • Burning sensations, especially while urinating or having intercourse
  • General discomfort
  • Irritation or itching

Genital Warts in Women

Genital warts in women typically appear around the vagina, anus, or cervix, including the skin surrounding and inside these areas. Flare-ups may cause one or two scattered bumps or large clusters. Typically, larger clusters cause more discomfort. 

Genital warts can look skin-colored or reddish, depending on how irritated they are. A standard STD test doesn’t always scan for low-risk HPV (the type that doesn’t cause cervical cancer), so you must specifically request the test from your health care provider. You can also order a comprehensive 10-panel STD test online from Rapid STD Testing for fast and discreet results if you wish to check for other STDs. 

Genital Warts in Men 

For men, genital warts typically appear around the scrotum, penis, or anus, though many are asymptomatic. No genital wart testing for men exists, so if you notice bumps around the above regions, you should visit your doctor for an exam. 

Genital warts can also affect the mouth and throat in men and women, particularly after oral sexual contact between infected sexual partners. Both genders may develop warts in the groin area surrounding the genitals, including the lower stomach and inner thighs. 

How Soon Do Genital Warts Appear After Infection? 

Genital warts typically don’t surface for around four to eight weeks after skin contact with the virus. Some people may develop warts at this time, others may notice them years later, and many will never experience symptoms at all. The virus remains in your system, which means that even if you treat it, warts can resurface. 

Diagnosis of Genital Warts 

So, can you get tested for genital warts? Understanding how to test for genital warts and what the process includes may ease any nerves you have entering your appointment. Most health care providers can diagnose genital warts with a simple physical exam to distinguish between various STDs like HPV vs. herpes

Review common questions and exams below to alleviate your biggest concerns and know what to expect before your appointment. 

Questions Your Doctor May Ask 

During your initial exam, your doctor will likely ask you a few questions to understand your condition and how to treat it. Knowing what questions to expect can help you arrive prepared for your appointment. Answering all questions honestly will help you receive the accurate diagnosis and treatment needed to feel your best again. 

Some common questions include the following:

  • Do you follow safe sex guidelines?
  • Do you have multiple sexual partners? If so, how many (approximately)?
  • Have you and your partner(s) recently received an STI screening?
  • Do you have any symptoms? If so, what are they?
  • Are you currently pregnant or planning to get pregnant soon?

Tests for Genital Warts 

What is a genital wart test? Testing for genital warts may involve the following methods depending on your age, gender, pre-existing conditions, and symptoms:

  • Pelvic exams: Women should receive regular pap tests and pelvic exams to check cervical health and locate any signs of early cervical cancer. Doctors may examine the cervix for genital warts, take cell samples, and check for abnormalities. 
  • Blood tests: Many STIs cause similar symptoms, so if your doctor is unsure, they may use a blood test to rule out other infections. You can order same-day STD testing from Rapid STD Testing if you want to complete this exam from home. 
  • Anal exams: Doctors may use anoscopes to examine the anal cavity for internal warts. 
  • Biopsies: Occasionally, providers may remove a portion of a wart to collect a cell sample for a more confirmed diagnosis. Biopsies are most important when screening for the three types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. Women over 30, especially those without the proper vaccinations, have higher risks of developing cervical cancer. 

Typically, doctors only perform biopsies on higher-risk patients. Men and young women with genital warts can often receive a simple physical exam, diagnosis, and treatment plan in one appointment. 

Treatment of Genital Warts

The treatment for genital warts depends on your symptoms and level of discomfort. Asymptomatic cases typically don’t require any treatment. If you feel constant itching, burning, and discomfort while urinating, sitting on toilet seats, or having intercourse, you may need treatment to ease your symptoms. 

Patients should avoid over-the-counter wart medications, as such creams and ointments do not work for genital applications. If you have a mild case, you can try a few home remedies for genital warts. Such remedies involve adjusting your diet with more nutrient-dense foods to boost your immune system so you can fight the viral infection. 

The following home remedies may ease your discomfort:

  • Tea tree oil applied directly to warts
  • Witch hazel applied to warts
  • Green tea extract topical application
  • Garlic extract application
  • Apple cider vinegar applied to warts
  • Increased vegetables in your diet
  • B12 and folate supplements
  • Antioxidant-rich foods
  • Whole grains and lean proteins

Medication

In more uncomfortable scenarios, your doctor will likely prescribe you one of the following topical medications:

  • Imiquimod: Imiquimod boosts the immune system, helping your body fight the virus, though it comes with various uncomfortable side effects and can weaken protective barriers, like condoms. You should avoid sex while using imiquimod. 
  • Podophyllin and podofilox: This plant-based resin contains compounds that can destroy the cells inside genital warts. Your doctor may apply the solution once and then send you home with more. 
  • Trichloroacetic acid: This solution chemically burns off warts and, unlike podophyllin, works for internal warts. 
  • Sinecatechins: Sinecatechins specifically treat genital warts around the anal canal. 

Surgery

Medication can remove smaller warts and alleviate minor symptoms, though you may need a surgical procedure to remove larger clusters. Surgery isn’t typically required, though patients may choose it for cosmetic purposes. Doctors may recommend that pregnant mothers remove all warts before childbirth to reduce contact risks. 

Surgery options include the following:

  • Cryotherapy: Freezing warts off using liquid nitrogen
  • Electrotherapy: Burning warts off using electrical currents
  • Surgical excision: Cutting off warts with special tools under local or general anesthesia 
  • Laser treatment: Burning off warts with high-power laser beams

Recovery Process

Genital warts may heal after a few weeks of treatment or longer, depending on their size and severity. During the recovery process, you should maintain regular appointments with your doctor to keep up with your treatment plan, as they may advise different options depending on how your body responds. 

Can You Have Sex While Treating Genital Warts? 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that virtually all sexually active men and women contract HPV at some point during their lives. Because HPV is so common, most health care professionals don’t require that you abstain from sex after receiving a diagnosis. Instead, you can practice safe sex using multiple protection methods, communicating with your sexual partner about your condition, and receiving regular same-day STD testing. 

If you have an active flare-up of genital warts, you can easily spread the virus to others. During treatment with active warts, your doctor may recommend abstaining from sex until you heal.

Can Genital Warts Come Back After Treatment?

Yes, HPV remains in your system, which means genital warts may reappear at any time, even after healing. Genital warts can return weeks, months, or even years after the onset. Following a healthy diet and strengthening your immune system can prevent recurring flare-ups. 

Get Tested Today 

Is there a test for genital warts? Yes, you can receive a physical exam or biopsy, depending on your symptoms. Testing is the first step to controlling your symptoms.

Now that you know how to test for genital warts, receive regular STD screenings and urge your partners to do the same. Order a rapid STD test from Rapid STD Testing or call us at (866) 872-1888.