Noticing any new bump, abrasion, or wart on your genitals is enough to send most of us into a frantic Google image tailspin. While it can feel stressful at first to discover a genital wart, it's not the end of the world. Once you go to a doctor to suss out what's happening and what you need to do to get rid of it, you'll feel much more at ease.
Genital warts appear when someone is infected with human papillomavirus (HPV), explains Ana G. Cepin, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University. "HPV has multiple strains, and some different strains do different things," she says. A few of these strains can lead to genital warts.
The good news is that the HPV vaccine can protect against the types of HPV associated with genital warts (and also cervical cancers), Dr. Cepin says. So, the vaccine is an important first line of defence. If you do end up with a genital wart, your doctor can help you sort through available treatment options to help manage and prevent future breakouts.
That said, if you are bugging out and don't know what to do first, Dr. Cepin explains a step-by-step plan ahead.