Early Stage HPV Warts (Genital Warts) | Signs and Symptoms
Written By Kobi Nathan, Pharm.D., M.Ed., CDP, BCGP, AGSF
Sleep Disorders
April 29, 2023

Early stage HPV warts are something many people might have heard about, but few really understand. This article will answer your questions about this medical condition, its causes, and its symptoms. We’ll also dive into how these warts can be managed and prevented in the first place.

What to know about early stage HPV warts

  1. HPV warts are soft and tend to be flesh-colored bumps that cluster around your vagina, vulva, anus, penis, or scrotum, and can be raised or flat, with a cauliflower appearance.
  2. It is a common sexually transmitted infection, spread through vaginal, anal, or skin-to-skin contact with sexual partners.
  3. There is no cure for HPV, but symptoms can be managed.
  4. HPV infection is usually silent – the warts are the only obvious symptom.
  5. HPV warts may not appear until weeks or months after your initial infection. Some people develop symptoms years later.
  6. Some people never develop symptoms.
  7. Avoiding unprotected sex and keeping your body healthy are the best ways to prevent HPV infection.
  8. Just because you have a bump in your genitals does not mean you have early stage HPV warts! Talk to your doctor!


Different Types of Warts

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the primary cause of these unsightly growths. There are many different types of HPV strains that cause many types of warts affecting different body areas. In fact, there are more than 200 different types of the HPV virus.

However, not all HPV virus strains lead to warts, but all warts are caused by certain HPV types.

Early stage HPV warts are caused by HPV types 6 and 11.

Some HPV strains can even cause more severe health issues like cervical cancer.

Important note: Genital warts are not the same as skin tags! These are very different issues. To learn more, read my articles, Genital Warts vs Skin Tags and What Do Skin Tags Really Mean?

Additionally, genital warts are different from genital herpes. Although both are caused by viruses, they present differently. Read my article Genital Warts vs. Herpes to get the details.

For the remainder of this article, I will focus on HPV in the setting of genital warts and will use the terms HPV warts and Genital warts interchangeably.

Identifying Early Stage HPV Warts: What do genital warts look like?

It’s crucial to recognize the early signs of genital warts so that appropriate treatment can begin. Some of the typical symptoms include:

  • Small, flesh-colored, or gray bumps appear alone or in clusters.
  • Itchiness or discomfort around the affected area.
  • A change in the texture of the skin where the wart is present.

Diagnosing Early Stage HPV Warts: Leave It to the Pros

It’s essential to consult a medical professional to diagnose early-stage HPV warts properly. They’ll likely conduct a physical examination and, in some cases, might require a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

Symptoms of early stage HPV warts in men

Symptoms of early stage HPV warts include:

  • Small bumps on the shaft or tip of the penis, scrotum, or anus.
  • Flesh-colored, whitish, or greyish bumps.
  • Flat or raised bumps.
  • Bumps can be itchy or painless.
  • Bumps can be smooth or “cauliflower-like” in appearance.

Symptoms of early stage HPV warts in women

Symptoms of HPV-associated genital warts include:

  • Small or large bumps or groups of bumps in or outside the vagina, cervix, or anus.
  • Flesh-colored, whitish, or greyish bumps.
  • Flat or raised bumps.
  • Bumps can be itchy or painless.
  • Unusual vaginal discharge.
  • Bumps can be smooth or “cauliflower-like” in appearance.

Here is a nice overview video about HPV warts. Click on the image to view:

Do genital warts go away?

While HPV may not always be curable, managing genital warts is achievable. Extended periods without outbreaks are possible, but completely eliminating the warts for a lifetime might be unattainable.

This is because genital warts represent just one symptom of HPV, which can potentially develop into a chronic, lifelong infection for certain individuals.

For those who successfully clear an HPV infection, the risk of re-infection still exists. In some cases, infections from multiple strains can occur simultaneously, although this is relatively rare.

Hence, even after treatment, genital warts could reappear in the future. The likelihood of recurrence depends on factors such as whether you were vaccinated, how well your immune system functions, the specific HPV strain, and your viral load during active infection.

How long do early stage HPV warts last?

About 80% of people will clear genital warts on their own within 18 to 24 months. However, getting prompt treatment can greatly speed up clearance of the infection.

Sometimes, if the warts are left untreated, they can:

  •  Grow in size.
  • Become itchy, painful, and irritated.
  • Spread to other parts of the body.
  • Be difficult to get rid of due to their location in the body crevices and are hard to keep clean.

Treatment options for early stage HPV Warts

Once a healthcare professional has diagnosed early stage HPV warts, they’ll present you with various types of treatment options. Some of the most common treatments include:

The most suitable treatment for you will depend on the size, location, and number of warts present.

Remember, every patient is different, and what works for someone else might not be the best fit for you. Having an open conversation with your doctor about the pros and cons of each treatment option is essential.

This article has affiliate links. I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you if you decide to purchase through the links. Thank you for supporting my website!

How can you prevent genital warts?

  • Practicing safe sex by using condoms or dental dams can reduce the risk of HPV transmission.
  • Getting vaccinated against HPV protects against the most common strains of the virus.
  • Regularly checking your skin for any abnormal growths or changes in texture.

At-home test for HPV (Women over 30 only)

Test kits are available for discreet HPV testing in the comfort and privacy of your own home.

Unfortunately, these test kits are only available for women over the age of 30.

A company I recommend is myLAB Box .

If you are interested in learning more, click here to be brought to the product page on the company’s official website.

Preventing cervical cancer in women through screening

It is important for women to get regular cervical screenings (Pap smears)as they are vital for detecting HPV infections that can lead to cervical cancer.

These screenings help identify any abnormal cell changes early on, allowing for timely treatment and reducing the risk of developing cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends the following for women with a cervix:

  • Begin cervical cancer testing (screening) at age 25.
  • Women between 25 and 65 should have a primary HPV test (Certain tests have been approved to be primary HPV tests by the FDA) every 5 years.
  • Women over 65 who have had regular screenings in the past 10 years with normal results and no history of CIN2 (abnormal cervical cells – Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia)) or more serious diagnoses within the past 25 years need not continue screening. Don’t restart testing once stopped.
  • People who have had their cervix and uterus removed (total hysterectomy) should stop screening unless the hysterectomy was completed to treat cervical cancer or serious pre-cancer.
  • Those with a partial hysterectomy (cervix remaining) should continue screening.
  • You should continue cancer screening even if you have had the HPV vaccine.


Living with Early Stage HPV Warts: A Manageable Condition

While living with early-stage HPV warts may seem daunting, remember that it is manageable. 

Many people successfully treat their warts and go on to live healthy, fulfilling lives.

Maintaining open communication with your healthcare provider and following their recommendations for treatment and prevention is crucial.


Debunking the Myths: Separating Fact from Fiction

There are many misconceptions about HPV and early-stage HPV warts, so it’s essential to separate fact from fiction. Here are a few common myths:

Myth: Only women can contract HPV.

Fact: Both men and women can contract HPV, and it is equally important for both genders to take preventative measures.

Myth: Having HPV means you’ll inevitably develop cancer.

Fact: While some strains of HPV are linked to an increased risk of cancer, most HPV infections do not lead to cancer, especially if detected and treated early.

Myth: If you have HPV, you’ll have visible warts.

Fact: Many people with HPV never develop visible warts, and some may not even realize they have the virus.

In Conclusion: Early Stage HPV Warts and You

Understanding the early stages of HPV warts is essential for maintaining good health and taking appropriate preventative measures.

Remember to consult a healthcare professional if you suspect you have HPV warts and discuss the most suitable treatment options to get rid of the warts.

By staying informed and proactive about your health, you can successfully manage and prevent early-stage HPV warts.

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