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anal warts

Jun 18, 2001

Can you tell me some symptoms and please describe to me what anal warts are?

Response from Mr. Kull

Anal warts are warts that can appear in or around the anus and rectum and are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is spread by skin-to-skin contact with the virus, most often through contact with active lesions/warts. HPV-related warts are generally painless, may cause itching, and can lead to sores or bleeding. They are often described as flesh-colored, soft, and cauliflower-like. However, if the warts occur in the rectum, you may not see or even know they are there.

People who have engaged in receptive anal sex, especially gay men, and people with HIV infection are at the highest risk for rectal/anal warts. Condoms provide some, but not complete, protection. It is recommended that those individuals get screened for warts in the rectum at some point in their life. A doctor can generally do this in her office. There is some evidence, though not conclusive, that rectal/anal warts may lead to certain types of rectal/anal cancers, especially if they go untreated. This evidence could lead to future guidelines stressing the importance of regular screening for anyone at risk. See my response to "Anal sex and colorectal cancer" (

See the articles on "HPV and Genital Warts" here at The Body for more information on this most common sexually transmitted infection (


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