Genital warts are one of the most common types of sexually transmitted infections. At least half of all sexually active people will become infected with the virus that causes genital warts at some point during their lives.
As the name suggests, genital warts affect the moist tissues of the genital area. Genital warts may look like small, flesh-colored bumps or have a cauliflower-like appearance. In many cases, the warts are too small to be visible.
Like warts that appear elsewhere on your body, genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Some strains of genital HPV can cause genital warts, while others can cause cancer. Vaccines can help protect against certain strains of genital HPV.
In the United States, about 1.4 million people have genital warts, which are caused by HPV. An estimated 24 million people have an HPV infection, and 5.5 million are infected each year. About 50% of women have been infected at least once by age 50. Most infections go away within 1 to 2 years, but some persist. Persistent infection can increase the risk of certain types of cancer.
There are over 70 known types of HPV. Some types cause common skin warts. Other types cause different types of genital infections: