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Physical Examination for Genital Warts (Human Papillomavirus) for Men


Exam Overview

A visual exam of the penis and anus is most important to diagnose genital warts in men. A magnifying glass may be used to help locate abnormal tissue.

Why It Is Done

A physical exam may be done if:

A physical exam often is the only test needed to diagnose genital warts. Some doctors will apply an acetowhite test to make the warts more visible. Your doctor may apply a vinegar solution (weak acetic acid) to the skin to show the difference between normal and abnormal tissue. A slight burning sensation may occur when the acetic acid is applied. The acetowhite test is not routinely recommended to confirm genital warts.

Results

Findings of the physical exam may include the following:

Normal

Genital warts are not found.

But HPV may be present even when the visual exam does not locate any warts. HPV can be present in tissue that appears normal.

Abnormal

Genital warts are found on or around the penis, scrotum, or anus.

Treatment is based on:

  • The number, size, and location of warts.
  • Any problems the warts cause (such as pain or bleeding).
  • Your treatment preferences.

A sample (biopsy) of tissue may be taken if genital warts cannot be positively diagnosed with a physical exam. A biopsy can confirm an HPV infection.

What To Think About

Many men do not notice that they have genital warts, even when the warts are visible.

Treating genital warts does not cure a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The virus may remain inactive in the body after warts are removed. A person treated for genital warts may still be able to spread the infection. Condoms may help reduce the risk of getting HPV infection.

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Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerJeanne Marrazzo, MD, MPH - Infectious Disease
Last RevisedJune 28, 2010

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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