Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

Anonymous on August 11, 2011

Could I catch genital warts if I masturbated after fingering my girlfriend?

My girlfriend and I just started experimenting sexually and now I have some bumps on my genitals. We haven’t even had sex yet...but I put two fingers in her vagina and then masturbated an hour later without washing my hands. Can I get genital warts from this?

answered by
Ruthann M. Cunningham, MD on August 11, 2011

Thanks for your question. I know that unexpected bumps on your genitals can be scary. To know for sure if the bumps are genital warts, please visit your doctor or a local health clinic. In the meantime I’m pleased to give you some information about genital warts and how they can spread.

The short answer is yes...there’s a small risk of catching genital warts by masturbating shortly after fingering a sexual partner. Most genital warts are caused by two types of the human pampallomavirus (HPV): HPV-6 and HPV-11. Current research from the University of Hawaii suggests that HPV can be transmitted by the hands. So, if your girlfriend has one of the types of HPV that causes genital warts, and you touched her genitals and then touched your own genitals, there’s a small risk of catching genital warts...even if visible warts aren’t present.

As for the bumps you see...they could be anything from an STD to a pimple, so it’s best to see your doctor about your symptoms. Depending on your previous sexual experience, it sounds your STD risk is relatively low...although it’s always a good idea for both people in a relationship to get tested for common STDs before starting any sexual activity. Knowing each other’s STD status is the first step to taking care of each other’s sexual health and well-being.

In addition to the possibility you have an STD, a pimple or an ingrown hair are also possibilities. Or it could be a relatively harmless disease related to chicken pox called molluscum contagiosum. To learn more about common STDs, risk factors, symptoms, testing and treatment options, see our Expert Guide to STD Basics.

Finally, if you’re between the ages of 9 and 26, be aware that you’re eligible for the Gardisil HPV vaccine. There are over 100 types of HPV and the vaccine only defends against a handful, but it’s been approved to help prevent the two types of HPV that cause almost 90% of genital warts in men. The vaccine only works if you haven’t been exposed to the virus yet, so check with your regular doctor to see if the vaccine is right for you.

Hopefully, I’ve helped shed some light on your symptoms. Visiting your doctor is the only way to know what the bumps are for sure. Good luck and I wish you and your girlfriend a happy, healthy relationship.

Related info:

Ruthann M. Cunningham, MD

Dr. Cunningham is a member of the Analyte Physicans Group. She's also a member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, practicing at both Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital in Illinois and at Wheaton Franciscan All Saints Medical Center in Wisconsin. An ER physician since 2000, she regularly treats patients with STDs. Dr. Cunningham was educated at Wayne State University School of Medicine and completed her Emergency Medicine residency at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, IL.

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