Healthcare provider explaining how long genital warts last via telehealth

How Long Do Genital Warts Last?

Medically reviewed on Nov 17, 2023 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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As frustrating as they are to contend with, as many as 400,000 people deal with genital warts every year.[1] Genital warts are a side effect of human papillomavirus (HPV), and they can be extremely contagious if you develop them.[1]

While visible genital warts often go away on their own, it’s possible to speed up their remission with topical or procedural treatments.[2] How long do genital warts last? With treatment, warts can take a few months to subside rather than several years. How long it takes for them to clear up varies significantly between individuals, based on factors like treatment methods and overall immune health.[1]

If you’re struggling with genital warts, understanding how to treat them can help protect both you and your partner(s)’ physical and emotional well-being. Below, we’ll touch on genital warts’ causes, how to treat them, and what you can do to curb the spread of HPV.

What Causes Genital Warts?

The main cause of genital warts is HPV, the single most common sexually transmitted infection.[1] HPV can be contracted by having any of the following types of sex with someone who is infected [2]:

  • Vaginal sex
  • Anal sex
  • Oral sex

While HPV affects an estimated 79 million people in the US, not all types of HPV cause genital warts. Genital warts are caused by two specific strains of HPV [1]:

  • HPV 6
  • HPV 11

In other words, if you’ve been diagnosed with the HPV infection, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop genital warts.[1]

While there is currently no cure for HPV, 90% of cases retreat on their own within 2 years of contracting the HPV virus.[2] Genital warts are similar: many cases go away on their own, though others can worsen over time. Fortunately, there are several ways to effectively treat genital warts and:

  • Support your mental health and peace of mind while recovering from HPV
  • Prevent genital warts from progressing to a broader surface area
  • Reduce the likelihood of passing warts or HPV on to sexual partner(s)

See more: Does HPV Go Away?

HPV Risks and Complications

It’s important to understand that genital warts themselves are considered a complication of HPV.[2] Apart from this dermatological condition, having HPV increases the risk for [2]:

  • Cervical precancer – In women and people AFAB, having HPV may elevate your risk of cervical cancer. If you’re infected, you can take preventative measures to protect your future health by getting a regular Pap test and pelvic exam.
  • Other cancers – Both men and people AMAB and women and people AFAB are at a higher risk of developing certain forms of cancer if they’re infected by HPV. These include vulval, vaginal, penile, anal, and throat cancers.

What Do Genital Warts Look Like?

Genital warts can vary significantly in appearance. Most commonly, you might notice them in two formations [3]:

  • Clusters – These types of genital warts are often described as resembling cauliflower. They look like tight little clumps of bumps.
  • Scattered – These types of genital warts usually carry a slightly darker color than the skin. They’re spaced fairly far apart and are very small.

Genital warts themselves may be raised or flush against the skin. Most have a rough texture, but they can also be smooth in some cases.[3]

Where Can Genital Warts Develop?

Genital warts don’t always crop up on your sex organs. Women and people AFAB might also develop them on their [1]:

  • Vulva
  • Cervix
  • Groin

In addition to the penis, men and people AMAB might notice them on the [3]:

  • Scrotum
  • Groin
  • Thighs

Genital warts may also develop around the rectum and anus, or around the oral cavity (on the throat, mouth, lips, and tongue). Due to where they appear, some may confuse genital warts vs. ingrown hairs. This is why it’s important to pay attention to both their location on the body and their appearance and texture.

Treating Genital Warts

Unfortunately, there are no home remedies to effectively treat genital warts. Normal wart removal methods should not be used, as they can damage the sensitive skin of the genital area.

If you want to speed up their healing, two approaches are recommended for genital warts treatment: topical and procedural.

Topical Treatments For Genital Warts

Topical treatments are applied directly to the skin to encourage the healing of your genital warts. A variety of medications are available, including [4]:

  • Podofilox (Condylox) – This medicine helps physically break down genital warts. Some types of this medicine can be used at home, while others may require application by a healthcare provider; pregnant women are not recommended to use it. When applying this medication at home, be sure it is only applied externally.[5]
  • Imiquimod (Aldara or Zyclara) – This medicine helps your immune system take care of genital warts on its own. It can cause some irritation to the skin. It may also degrade birth control methods like condoms or diaphragms, so it’s best to avoid sexual activity after you’ve used it.

Alternatively, some dermatologists use a plant-based option to abate genital warts. These are created from sinecatechins and an extract of green tea that’s typically applied to warts formed around the rectum and anus. [4]

Private STD consultations

Procedural Treatments For Genital Warts

If your genital warts don’t respond to topical treatments, you might consider having them removed through surgery or cosmetic treatments. While surgical procedures can be more aggressive, they can be highly effective in assisting with [4]:

  • Symptoms relief – Genital warts often come with itchiness or pain. Having them removed can significantly curb any physical discomfort that comes with them. Removal can also make it easier to clean your body and keep it hygienic.
  • Infection prevention – Because genital warts are contagious, having yours removed can prevent them from spreading to others through sexual activity.
  • Mental health – For many people, genital warts aren’t a cosmetic issue. They can cause feelings of shame, social isolation, and even contribute to mental illnesses like depression. Having genital warts removed helps many people feel better internally and feel more connected to others, sexually and otherwise.

Cryosurgery is considered one of the most effective methods for removing warts. In this procedure, a healthcare provider freezes off your warts using liquid nitrogen. It may require multiple sessions and anesthesia, but it’s relatively affordable.[6]

Several other modalities are available, including [6]:

  • Removing them chemically – Trichloroacetic acid (TA) may be used to chemically remove genital warts both externally and internally. The procedure must be performed by a healthcare provider. However, TA is not always as effective as cryosurgery and carries a high probability the warts will return.
  • Removing them with lasers – Laser treatments are excellent for genital warts that take up a large surface area. They can be slightly less effective and more expensive than cryosurgery.
  • Removing them with electricity – Electrocautery can be effective at removing genital warts, though it may lead to scarring. You may also need to undergo anesthesia.
  • Surgical removal – Cutting off the warts surgically may be another option if your genital warts are internal.

How To Prevent Genital Warts And HPV

While it can feel alienating to have genital warts, the condition is more common than you’d think: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates approximately 1 in 100 sexually active Americans has them.[2]

So, can HPV come back after treatment? The short answer is yes. So, whether you’re concerned about genital warts or want to avoid re-infection, the following sexual health practices can help you avoid getting them again in the future [2]:

  • Get vaccinated – The HPV vaccine can help protect you from 9 strains of HPV, as well as complications they can cause like cancer and genital warts.2 Ideally, children and adolescents of both biological sexes will get vaccinated before becoming sexually active.2 If you’re under the age of 45 and haven’t been vaccinated yet, it’s recommended you get an HPV vaccine.[2]
  • Get examined – Women and people AFAB are encouraged to see their healthcare provider in person for routine pelvic exams and Pap smears. These tests can help screen for early signs of cervical cancer.[2]
  • Get an HPV test – HPV tests can alert women and people AFAB to their HPV status and cervical cancer risk. Traditionally, these tests have been administered in a healthcare provider’s office. Today, [HPV tests]( are available for women and people AFAB to take at home. Unfortunately, men and people AMAB cannot be tested.[7]
  • Use protection – Barrier methods of contraception like latex condoms and dental dams can help minimize the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) via skin-to-skin contact. While they won’t provide perfect coverage, they can significantly reduce your risk of passing on or contracting STIs.

Remember, many STIs, including HPV, do not always present with physical symptoms. Many people may become infected without knowing it. By making regular sexual health testing a cornerstone of your routine, you can help defend yours and your intimate partner(s)’ present and future well-being.

Regain Your Sexual Health with Everlywell

Whether you’re currently treating genital warts or are trying to reduce your chances of getting them, taking a proactive stance on your sexual welfare is one of the best things you can do for your health.

You can start screening regularly with the Everlywell STD Test – Female or the Everlywell STD Test – Male. All genders can take their test at home, mail it to Everlywell’s CLIA-certified labs, and receive physician-reviewed results about 6 common STIs.

Sexual health testing needn’t be inconvenient, unaffordable, or time-intensive. Start taking your sexual health seriously and receive STD treatment online by meeting with a clinician via Everlywell.

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  1. Genital Warts | Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic. Published 2014. URL.
  2. STD Facts - Human papillomavirus (HPV). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published January 19, 2021. URL. Accessed November 8, 2023.
  3. Genital warts: Signs and symptoms AAD. URL. Accessed November 8, 2023.
  4. Genital warts: Diagnosis and treatment. AAD. URL. Accessed November 8, 2023.
  5. Mayo Clinic. Genital warts - Diagnosis and treatment - Mayo Clinic. Published 2016. URL. Accessed November 8, 2023.
  6. Leslie SW, Sajjad H, Kumar S. Genital Warts. PubMed. Published 2020. URL. Accessed November 8, 2023.
  7. Honigman AD, Dubin DP, Chu J, Lin MJ. Management of Pearly Penile Papules: A Review of the Literature. Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. 2019;24(1):79-85. doi:
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