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Gynecological Exam for Genital Warts (Human Papillomavirus)

Exam Overview

A gynecological exam for genital warts includes:

The visual exam and the speculum exam are the most important for diagnosing genital warts. Sometimes a doctor may use a magnifying source or colposcope to see some areas more clearly.

Some doctors may use an acetowhite test to make the warts more visible. A vinegar solution (weak acetic acid) may be applied 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.

A gynecological exam may also include a Pap test. A Pap test can show if there are any abnormal cell changes caused by certain types of HPV. Some types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) cause genital warts and some can lead to cervical cancer. The HPV infection that causes an abnormal Pap test will be treated differently than the types of HPV that cause visible warts.

The size, position, and appearance of the rectum, vagina, cervix, uterus, and ovaries are determined during these exams.

Why It Is Done

A gynecological exam may be done as part of a routine checkup or to find out whether you have genital warts or other sexually transmitted infections.

Results

Findings of a gynecological exam may include the following.

Normal

Genital warts are not seen during the exam. HPV may be present even if the exam is normal and no genital warts are seen. Many women infected with HPV do not have visible genital warts.

Abnormal

Genital warts are seen during the exam. Treatment is based on:

  • The number, size, and location of visible warts.
  • Your symptoms.
  • Your preferences.

What To Think About

Genital warts may be discovered during a routine gynecological exam. Many women do not notice genital warts if the warts are small or are on the vagina or cervix.

Complete the medical test information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this test.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised June 21, 2012

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