Infection with Genital warts

Every year, 25,000 people in the Netherlands are infected with Genital warts or the HPV virus. This is good for second place on the list of most common STDs in the Netherlands. In some cases, the warts are located inside the body, allowing them to multiply and spread unnoticed. Genital warts can spread into clusters, which in most cases must be removed by one or more operations. The warts are extremely contagious!

What are genital warts?

Genital warts are similar to normal warts, but these warts are highly contagious through sexual contact and are located on/in the genitals and anus. Every year, 25,000 people in the Netherlands become infected with this STD.
The warts are harmless for the rest of your health, but can be very persistent. They can quickly grow into bunches and sometimes multiply very quickly. The warts are caused by a virus, which is almost always transmitted through sexual contact. This virus comes in many variants, including HPV types 6, 11 and 18.
However, the disease can also be transmitted in other ways , for example through a towel or washcloth used by an infected person. The disease can also be transmitted via the toilet. During bowel movements it is possible that the anus contaminates the genitals or vice versa. Genital warts are usually located in, on and around the genitals, the anus and (exceptionally) in the mouth.

Symptoms in men and women

Genital warts only develop a few weeks or even more than a year after infection with the virus. In women, warts are mainly located on and/or around the labia, in the vagina and on the cervix. In men on and/or around the penis. In both women and men, warts can also be located in and around the anus. It often starts with small warts that look completely innocent. Yet they grow and multiply very quickly. They do not hurt, but they can itch or irritate. In women, the complaints can become worse during menstruation or pregnancy. It is possible that you have genital warts without even knowing it. Sometimes the warts are located in places that you cannot see or in women, for example, only internally. In some cases, the warts disappear on their own, but treatment is highly recommended.

Possible consequences in men and women

Genital warts can spread quickly and are highly contagious. That is why rapid treatment is also very important. If you wait too long for treatment, the duration of treatment will also become longer. The HPV (Human Papillomavirus) that causes warts comes in different types. Some types can be treated quickly, other types are associated with cervical cancer. The types that cause warts are benign and therefore do not cause cancer. (This is a big misunderstanding!)
Not everyone who becomes infected with the virus will indeed suffer from warts. Depending on the necessary treatment and the duration of the treatment, it is possible that the genitals will be left with scars. Furthermore, the disease or virus has no serious consequences.


The doctor will first examine the warts carefully and will then most likely also conduct an examination to ensure that you have not been infected with another STD. He then determines which treatment is most suitable, based on the stage of the disease. In some cases you can treat the warts yourself by regularly applying a cream or liquid to them. Unfortunately, this treatment is only possible if you are extremely quick. A doctor can freeze, scorch or surgically remove the warts if there are too many. The latter in particular can be quite painful, although this is often done under general anesthesia. Unfortunately, there is no real cure, because the virus that causes the disease always remains in your blood and can cause the genital warts to return at any time. In some cases, multiple treatments and operations are required. This not only causes physical, but also mental damage due to the “mutilation” of the genitals caused by the many operations. Sometimes after years of treatment you can be declared ‘healthy’ and not have any problems for years. Suddenly the warts can come back after years, without you having to become infected again. There is a good chance, especially in pregnant women, that warts will return during pregnancy. Some treatments can be dangerous during pregnancy, so always inform the treating doctor that you are pregnant so as not to unnecessarily expose your baby to various risks!

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