You can reduce your risk of getting HPV and genital warts by doing the following:
- Get an HPV vaccine. If you are between the ages of 9 and 26, you may be eligible for an HPV vaccine. There are 2 HPV vaccines.
One of them is “quadrivalent,” meaning it can protect against 4 types of HPV. This vaccine is for males and females ages 9 to 26. It can prevent the types of HPV that cause most genital warts. To be fully vaccinated, you get 3 shots. For the vaccine to be most effective, you should get all 3 shots before your first sexual encounter.
Both HPV vaccines can help protect women from most types of cervical cancer.
- Use a condom during sex. A latex condom may help reduce the risk of getting genital warts. Condoms do not cover all the skin in the genital area. Therefore, they do not always prevent an infected person from spreading HPV.
- Limit your number of sex partners. Having many sex partners raises your risk of getting HPV. Being in a faithful relationship with one person reduces this risk. The only sure way to prevent HPV is to remain celibate (never have sex — oral, anal, or vaginal).
- Quit smoking. Research has found that smokers have a higher risk for getting genital warts than non-smokers.
Coping with genital warts
If you have (or had) genital warts, dermatologists recommend the following:
Talking with others who live with HPV can help you feel better.
- Do not use medicine meant for treating other types of warts. Other medicines are good for treating common warts and foot warts, but not genital warts. See a dermatologist for treatment of genital warts.
- Tell your sex partners you have genital warts. They should see a doctor.
- Use a condom during sex. A latex condom may help reduce the risk of spreading genital warts. Condoms do not cover all the skin in the genital area. This means that condoms do not always prevent an infected person from spreading HPV.
- Women: Get Pap tests (smears). Women who have received treatment for genital warts should get Pap tests (smears) as recommended by their doctor. Pap tests are the best way to find early abnormal changes in the cervix. This can prevent death from cervical cancer. If you have an abnormal Pap test, you should follow up with your doctor.
Getting genital warts can be life-changing. Talking with others can help.
HPV Resource Center
This website from the American Social Health Association offers message boards, links to support groups, and a hotline.
Learn more about genital warts