Physical Exam for Genital Warts (Human Papillomavirus) for Men

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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:

  • You have visible genital warts.
  • You suspect you may have a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
  • Your sex partner has been diagnosed with genital warts.

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.


Findings of the physical exam may include the following:


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.


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.

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


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerKirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology

Current as ofMay 22, 2015