Online Dermatologist > My Partner Has Genital Warts. Could I Be at Risk?

My Partner Has Genital Warts. Could I Be at Risk?

by | Nov 25, 2023 | Blog, Sexual Health, STD

Concerned couple sitting together in a bedroom, looking thoughtful and worried, symbolizing their contemplation about the risk of genital warts in their relationship

Key Takeaways


  • HPV causes genital warts, mainly types 6 and 11.
  • Spread through sexual and skin contact; multiple partners increase risk.
  • Vaccination and safe sex prevent HPV and warts.
  • Living with HPV requires communication and health management.
  • Relationship impact: honesty and safety measures are key.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that can lead to the development of genital warts, a condition that affects both men and women. This article aims to provide essential information about HPV and genital warts, focusing on their risks, symptoms, prevention, and impact on individuals and their relationships. By understanding the basics of HPV and genital warts, individuals can make informed decisions about their sexual health and take proactive steps to prevent infections.


What are Genital Warts?

Genital warts are growths on the skin and mucous membranes of the genitals caused by certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). They can appear as papule, or keratotic, flesh-colored bumps or have a cauliflower-like appearance. These warts are often accompanied by physical symptoms such pruritus, burning, pain, and discomfort, or bleeding.[1] Warts typically appear in anogenital areas, such as the vulva, penis, groin, perineum, perianal skin, or mucosal surfaces.


Overview of HPV  and Its Connection to Genital Warts

Genital warts (Condyloma acuminatum), result from Human papillomavirus (HPV) types 6 and 11, which are sexually transmitted low-risk strains is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.[2] While not life-threatening, these warts can lead to morbidity and psychosocial distress for individuals and their partners.

It is important to note that while HPV can lead to the formation of genital warts, many individuals infected with HPV do not develop visible warts. In fact, HPV infection is typically a self-limiting and frequently asymptomatic condition, meaning that individuals may be unaware of their infection status. It can be categorizing into high-risk HPV, including types 16 and 18, and low-risk HPV, encompassing types 6 and 11. The low-risk, non-oncogenic HPV strains are responsible for the formation of warts.[3] This highlights the complexity of HPV infections and the importance of understanding the potential for asymptomatic cases.

Given their prevalence, especially among men seeking dermatological care, healthcare providers have a crucial opportunity for timely intervention and treatment. Also, understanding the appearance and symptoms of genital warts, as well as their connection to specific HPV strains, is crucial in recognizing and addressing this common sexually transmitted infection.


Transmission and Risk Factors

Genital warts are primarily spread through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex. However, non-sexual transmission is also possible through skin-to-skin contact with an infected area.[4] It’s important to note that even individuals in long-term relationships, including married couples, can still be at risk of contracting human papillomavirus (HPV) due to the virus’s ability to remain dormant for years and its potential for transmission even when there are no visible warts.


Can a Married Person Get HPV?

Married individuals can still be at risk of HPV due to the virus’s ability to remain dormant for years and its potential for transmission even when there are no visible warts. Factors such as the duration of the marriage and the sexual history of both partners can influence the risk of HPV transmission within a long-term relationship.

Specific risk factors for HPV transmission include[5]:

  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Lack of consistent condom use
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Educational levels
  • Place of residence
  • Concurrent sexual partnerships
  • Other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)



The diagnosis of external genital warts is usually made visually, although a biopsy may be necessary for confirmation. Genital warts typically rise above the skin surface, have nuclear enlargement with perinuclear clearing changes typical of HPV infections. Internal warts pose a greater diagnostic challenge. Diagnostic tests include a pelvic exam, which may involve a Pap test to detect cervical changes, and a colposcopy for a detailed examination and biopsy of the vagina and cervix. An anal exam, using an anoscope, is conducted to inspect the anus for warts.[6]


How soon genital warts appear after infection?

Genital warts can appear within a few weeks [7] after having sex with a person who has HPV, but in some cases, they may take months to appear, or never appear at all. This variability can make it difficult to determine when or from whom the virus was contracted.

Do Genital Warts Stay with You for Life?

Regarding the longevity of genital warts, it is important to note that HPV infections may become chronic and lifelong for some individuals.

Some strains of HPV are high risk and associated with later formation of squamous cell carcinoma (cancer), and individuals may not even know if they have a high-risk HPV strain until precancerous or cancerous lesions form.[9]

Although HPV isn’t curable in all cases, genital warts are treatable. Some individuals may go extended periods of time without an outbreak, but it may not be possible to get rid of the warts forever. That’s because genital warts are only a symptom of HPV, which may become a chronic, lifelong infection for some.[10]

For those who clear the HPV infection, there is a chance of contracting an infection from the same strain or a different one. Some research shows that HPV infections persist latently in the body, even after warts have been treated or have disappeared.[11]

If genital warts are suspected, it is crucial to consult a healthcare provider for accurate diagnosis, as other conditions like sexually transmitted infections, moles, or skin tags can mimic their appearance.


Prevention and Protection Against Genital Warts

While there is no cure for HPV, there are effective prevention strategies that both men and women can adopt to reduce their risk of contracting genital warts. HPV vaccination, delve into safer sex practices, and provide specific preventive measures for avoiding genital warts and various types of cancer. Preventive measures play a crucial role in reducing the risk of HPV transmission and its associated health complications.


HPV Vaccination

The HPV vaccine is a powerful tool in preventing HPV infection and its related health issues. It is recommended for both males and females to receive the vaccine around the age of 11 or 12, although it can be given as early as age 9.[12] Vaccination can also be effective in individuals who have already been sexually active. By building immunity to the virus, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of developing genital warts and other HPV-related health issues.


How Can I Prevent Getting Genital Warts?

In addition to the HPV vaccine and safe sex practices, there are specific preventive measures that can further reduce the risk of getting genital warts.[14]

  • Regular Screening: Regular screening for HPV and genital warts can help in early detection and timely treatment.
  • Avoiding High-Risk Behaviors: Refraining from smoking and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can potentially reduce the risk of developing genital warts.
  • Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: A strong immune system is better equipped to combat viral infections. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep can contribute to overall well-being and support the body’s ability to fight off infections.
  • Educate Yourself: Stay informed about HPV, its transmission, and the risk factors associated with genital warts. Knowledge empowers individuals to make informed decisions about their sexual health and take proactive steps to prevent infections.
  • Consider Your Partner’s Vaccination Status: If in a committed relationship, discuss HPV vaccination with your partner and ensure they are up-to-date on their vaccinations. This collaborative approach can enhance protection against HPV and reduce the risk of genital warts for both partners.


By taking proactive steps and adopting a mindful approach to sexual health, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of contracting HPV and experiencing the associated complications, such as genital warts. Regular communication with healthcare professionals and maintaining a healthy lifestyle further contribute to a comprehensive strategy for prevention and protection.


What Are the Chances of Giving My Partner Genital Warts?

Visible warts, asymptomatic shedding, and preventive methods influence transmission rates of genital warts, which occur at an incidence rate of 0.5-1.2% in young men and women aged 18-25 years.[15] If warts are present, the risk of transmission is higher. However, even if there are no visible warts, the virus can still be transmitted through asymptomatic shedding. Asymptomatic shedding occurs when the virus is still present on the skin and mucous membranes, leading to potential transmission. This highlights the importance of understanding that HPV can be spread even when no symptoms are apparent., but there are no visible symptoms. This means that even if a person with genital warts does not have any visible warts, they can still transmit the virus to their partner. Preventive methods can reduce the risk of transmission. Studies shows that greater number of sexual partners, high frequency of asymptomatic infections, poor use of safe sexual practices and possibly decreased childhood oral HPV contribute to the increasing prevalence of genital herpes.[16]


Living with HPV/Genital Warts

Living with HPV or genital warts can be challenging, both physically and emotionally but with proactive management strategies, individuals can navigate these complexities and maintain healthy relationships.[17] While HPV can cause genital warts, it can also lead to more serious health problems such as cervical cancer, anal cancer, and throat cancer. However, it is important to note that most people with HPV do not develop cancer.

Special Considerations specific to different genders and individuals with weakened immune systems with HPV

Concerning specific to different genders and individuals with weakened immune systems and HPV, it’s important to consider vaccination recommendations and safety information. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends HPV vaccination for routine vaccination at age 11 or 12 years, with vaccination also recommended for everyone through age 26 years if not adequately vaccinated when younger. The CDC also states that HPV vaccination is given as a series of either two or three doses, depending on age at initial vaccination, and three doses are recommended for immunocompromised persons aged 9 through 26.[20]

 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) emphasizes the significant morbidity and mortality caused by HPV and strongly recommends HPV vaccination to eligible patients, stressing the benefits and safety of the vaccine. Additionally, ACOG encourages obstetrician–gynecologists to stock and administer HPV vaccines in their offices when feasible.[21]

Furthermore, the HPV vaccine protects against genital warts and most cases of cervical cancer, as well as cancer of the vagina, vulva, penis, or anus. It’s important to note that the vaccine works best when given before any exposure to HPV, and having a new sex partner at any age is a risk factor for getting a new HPV infection.

People with HIV infection have badly damaged immune systems get an increasing number of opportunistic infections (OIs), to prevent from HPV, three doses of the HPV vaccine are recommended for those individuals.[22]

It’s crucial for healthcare professionals to administer HPV vaccinations while the patient is seated or lying down, as recommended by the CDC.


  1. Lynde C. Clinical Features of External Genital Warts – Charles Lynde, Ronald Vender, Marc Bourcier, Neal Bhatia, 2013. Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. 2013. Accessed November 20, 2023.
  2. Ho N, Leon S. Keys to Successful Education for Patients with Genital Warts with Emphasis on the Presenting Male Patient. Journal of Dermatology for Physician Assistants. 2023;17(1). doi:
  3. Putra Gofur NR, Putri Gofur AR, Soesilaningtyas S, Putra Gofur RNR, Kahdina M, Martadila Putri H. Ethiology and Pathophysiology of Whart Hpv Infection: A Review Article. Cancer Research and Cellular Therapeutics. 2022;6(1):01-04. doi:
  4. Leslie SW, Sajjad H, Kumar S. Genital Warts. May 30, 2023. Accessed November 20, 2023.
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  9. Syrjanen, Termine N, Capra G, C. Paderni, Panzarella V, Campisi G. Oral HPV infection: current strategies for prevention and therapy. Current pharmaceutical design. 2017. Accessed November 20, 2023.
  10. Ault K. Epidemiology and Natural History of Human Papillomavirus Infections in the Female Genital Tract. Infectious Diseases in Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2017. Accessed November 20, 2023.
  11. Schiffman M, Wheeler CM, Castle PE. Human Papillomavirus DNA Remains Detectable Longer than Related Cervical Cytologic Abnormalities. The Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2002;186(8):1169-1172. doi:
  12. FDA licensure of quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV4, Gardasil) for use in males and guidance from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR Morbidity and mortality weekly report. 2014;59(20). Accessed November 23, 2023.
  13. Effectiveness of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted infections. 2014. Accessed November 23, 2023.
  14. HPV and Cancer | Human Papillomavirus and Cancer. 2017. Accessed November 23, 2023.
  15. C Sonnex, Lacey C. The treatment of human papillomavirus lesions of the lower genital tract. Best Practice & Research in Clinical Obstetrics & Gynaecology. 2001;15(5):801-816. doi:
  16. Stanberry LR, Cunningham AL, Mertz G, et al. New developments in the epidemiology, natural history and management of genital herpes. Antiviral Research. 1999;42(1):1-14. doi:
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  18. Veldhuijzen NJ, Peter J.F. Snijders, Reiss P, Chris J.L.M. Meijer, van. Factors affecting transmission of mucosal human papillomavirus. Lancet Infectious Diseases. 2010;10(12):862-874. doi:
  19. Rao D, Gela NR, Daley EM, Kattezham R, Rodriguez GC, Cella D. Developing a measure of health-related quality of life for women with cervical dysplasia resulting from human papillomavirus infection. International Journal of STD & AIDS. 2010;21(10):697-701. doi:
  20. HPV Vaccination Recommendations. 2023. Accessed November 23, 2023.
  21. Human Papillomavirus Vaccination. 2020. Accessed November 23, 2023.
  22. Opportunistic Infections. 2023. Accessed November 23, 2023.



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