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What are the Causes of Genital Warts?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 17, 2024
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The causes of genital warts are all in the same category—viruses. Various types of human papillomavirus virus (HPV) are responsible for the development of genital warts. The warts are primarily transmitted, however, via sexual contact. One sexual episode with a person who has HPV may be enough to cause genital warts. Having sexual contact with multiple partners may make the risk of contracting HPV and genital warts even higher.

Often, people talk about HPV as if one virus is capable of causing genital warts. The reality is HPV viruses total more than 100, and many of them are among the causes of genital warts. Scientist have found at least 40 different HPVs have the ability to cause genital warts. Even more disturbing is the fact that some subgroups of these viruses also have the ability to cause cancer of the uterus and cervix. In fact, some of these cancers may even prove capable of contributing to the development of cancer of the penis and anus.

There are many types of HPVs that are considered among the causes of genital warts, but most cases are caused by HPV-6 and HPV-11. Interestingly, these two types of HPV are low risk for causing cancer. Some other types of HPV that are among the causes of genital warts are more likely to cause cancer. For example, HPV-16 causes genital warts and is also a frequent cause of cancer of the cervix. HPV-18 is yet another type of HPV that causes genital warts and has higher risks of causing cancer.

While HPVs are the technical causes of genital warts, many people discuss the causes in terms of the manner in which a person is exposed to the virus that leads to them. In most cases, the mode of transmission is unprotected sexual contact. A person usually contracts HPV, and eventually genital warts, from a sexual partner. Typically, the period of time that lapses between exposure and development of the warts is about three months. While one sexual contact is enough to result in the spread of HPV and genital warts, having multiple sexual partners increases the risk of getting HPV and the risk of genital wart development.

HPV and genital warts are easy to transmit through sexual contact. It is, however, possible for an individual to have sexual contact with an infected partner and remain free of genital warts. The average person has about a 40-percent chance of avoiding genital warts in one sexual episode with an infected partner.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison , Writer
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGEEK writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By alex94 — On Jun 04, 2011

@anon156905- That is really a difficult question. I am by no means a professional, but I don't see how it is possible. I am not at all implying that your spouse has been unfaithful but I think that you should consider the possibility.

You need to do some research on the topic. You should also talk to your doctor and ask him or her. I know that it would be hard to consider that your partner has been unfaithful. In the meantime, make sure that you are treating the genital warts with the proper medications.

By anon156905 — On Feb 28, 2011

My partner has discovered a genital wart. we have been together for 10 years and both claim to have been faithful. is this possible?

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison


Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGEEK writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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