HPV Home > Genital Warts Diagnosis

Prior to making a genital warts diagnosis, your healthcare provider will typically ask you questions about your sexual history, current symptoms, and any existing conditions. While most genital warts are easily diagnosed by visual inspection, some may require an acetic acid solution test. Before diagnosing genital warts, your healthcare provider will also consider other conditions that share similar signs or symptoms.

Diagnosing Genital Warts: An Overview

Before diagnosing genital warts, your healthcare provider will begin by asking a number of questions. This will include questions about:
 
  • Current symptoms you are experiencing
  • Your sexual history
  • Other medical conditions that you may have
  • Any medicines you are taking.
     
Your healthcare provider will also perform a physical exam to look for signs and symptoms of genital warts (see Genital Warts Symptoms). Most genital warts are easily diagnosed by visual inspection.
 

Acetic Acid and Other Tests to Diagnose Genital Warts

Not all genital warts are easily seen with the naked eye. Therefore, your healthcare provider may apply a 3- to 5-percent acetic acid solution (vinegar is 5-percent acetic acid) on the penis, cervix, labia, or around the anus to make the flat genital warts that often go unnoticed visible. These will turn white when exposed to the acetic acid solution.
 
This test can turn positive for a number of reasons besides genital warts. Some examples of other conditions that turn white include:
 
Your healthcare provider may also recommend a Pap smear or colposcopy. During a colposcopy, the healthcare provider uses a special microscope to look more closely at the vagina and cervix for any signs or symptoms of genital warts
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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