HPV Home > How Do Genital Warts Spread?

If you are infected with the human papillomavirus, also called HPV (the cause of genital warts), it's important to know how easily genital warts spread. The warts are highly contagious, and are spread through skin-to-skin contact during sexual contact. Even if you aren't infected, understanding genital warts transmission can help you make safe choices about your sexual activity.

How Do Genital Warts Spread? -- An Overview

Genital warts (also known as condyloma acuminata or venereal warts) are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Like many sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), genital HPV infections often do not have signs and symptoms that can be seen or felt. One study reported that almost half of women infected with HPV had no obvious symptoms. If you are infected but have no symptoms, you can still spread HPV and genital warts to your sexual partner.
Genital warts are highly contagious. They are most often transmitted by skin-to-skin contact during vaginal, anal, or (in rare cases) oral sex with someone who is infected. About two-thirds of people who have sexual contact with a partner with genital warts will develop them, usually within three months of contact.
Genital warts are not always spread through penetrating sex. Some studies have shown that in female virgins, genital warts may be transmitted through nonpenetrating sexual contact.
In women, the warts occur on the outside and inside of the vagina, on the opening to the uterus (cervix), or around the anus.
In men, genital warts are less common. If present, they are usually seen on the tip of the penis. Genital warts may also be found on the shaft of the penis, on the scrotum, or around the anus.
In rare cases, genital warts can develop in your mouth or throat if you have oral sex with an infected person.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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