Genital Warts | Causes & Risk Factors

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How do you get HPV?

HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). The most common way to get HPV is by having oral, vaginal or anal sex with someone who is infected with HPV. The only sure way to prevent genital warts is to not have sex. If you are sexually active, having sex only with a partner who isn’t infected with HPV and who only has sex with you will lower your risk of getting genital warts.

Just because you can't see warts on your partner doesn't mean he or she doesn't have HPV. The infection can have a long incubation period. This means that months can pass between the time a person is infected with the virus and the time a person notices genital warts. Sometimes, the warts can take years to develop. In women, the warts may be where you can't see them--inside the body, on the surface of the cervix.

Using condoms may prevent you from catching HPV from someone who has it. However, condoms can't always cover all of the affected skin.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 04/14
Created: 09/00

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