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How Are Genital Warts Diagnosed?

Genital warts can be diagnosed from visual inspections, pap smear, and DNA tests, or a combination. If your healthcare provider suspects that you might have genital warts, they may start by visually checking for the presence of warts.

Common Locations of Warts

In men, warts are most commonly visible on the penis, scrotum, or around the anus. In women, they will typically appear inside or around the vaginal area, on the cervix, or around the anus. They can appear as small sores, or be grouped as large clusters. They tend to be white or reddish, though it is possible to have no visible warts at all and still carry the virus. In both men and women, you can also have visible warts on your tongue, mouth, lips, and throat.

Common Diagnostic Tests

If a visual inspection does not show that you have genital warts, but you still suspect you might have the virus, further testing can be performed for women. Unfortunately, with men, there are no reliable tests aside from visual inspection. Some of the testing that a healthcare provider may order for suspected genital warts in women include:

  • Pap smear: A routine pap smear where your healthcare provider collects cells from your vagina and cervix may show abnormalities caused by genital warts.
  • DNA test: A DNA test may be performed on collected cells from the cervix to find high-risk varieties of HPV that can be linked to warts.
  • HPV test: Having an HPV test can let you know if you have a strain that could lead to genital warts.

You can also perform at home tests from online healthcare providers like Nurx™ to test for HPV. Certain strains of HPV are responsible for genital warts, and if you receive a positive test, you should follow up with your healthcare provider to monitor you for possible wart development.

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