In many cases, anal warts may remain unnoticed. They often occur without pain or discomfort.
Anal warts are found inside and around the area of the anus. They start as small bumps that may be no larger than the head of a pin. Initially, they may be too small to be noticed. They can develop a cauliflower-appearance as they grow, or when several are clustered together. They may be flesh-colored, yellow, pink, or light brown.
The virus that causes anal warts also causes genital warts. Warts may occur on other parts of the body at the same time. Genital warts in women may appear on the vulva, vagina, or cervix. Genital warts in men can develop on the penis, scrotum, thighs, or groin. They may also grow on the mouth or throat of an infected person.
Other symptoms of anal warts are rare but can include itching, bleeding, or discharge from the anus. An infected person may also have the sensation of having a lump in the anal area.
Genital warts are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). The HPV virus often remains in the body without any signs. There are steps you can take to help prevent anal warts.
• Do not have sexual contact with people who have anal (or genital) warts
• Limit sexual contact to a single partner
• Don’t have sex when you have visible warts, even with a condom. There may be warts on places the condom doesn’t cover.
• Sexual partners should be checked for HPV and other STDs even when there are no symptoms
• Always use condoms (this reduces, but does not eliminate the risk, as HPV is spread by skin-to-skin contact and can live in areas not covered by a condom.)
• The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the vaccine Gardasil (vaccine against certain types of HPV that more commonly cause cervical and other HPV-related cancers) in certain patients age 11 to 26 prior to HPV exposure (sexual activity) to prevent the development of HPV- related cancers and associated precancerous lesions (called dysplasia). Most of these vaccines can protect against some types of the virus that cause most cases of genital warts.
• Stop smoking. If you smoke, you may have a bigger chance of getting warts than people who don’t smoke, and warts are more likely to come back if you smoke.
• People who have experienced anal warts need to discuss with their doctor how often they should be evaluated for recurrent warts. It is important to abstain from having sexual contact with people who have anal or genital warts.