Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions
What do genital warts look like? Are these little red bumps genital warts?
Ruthann M. Cunningham, MD on August 11, 2011
To set you on the right track, I’m happy to offer you some thoughts on typical causes of similar symptoms...
Yes, genital warts are one possibility. Genital warts can be found anywhere in the genital area. However, in women, genital warts usually occur on the lips of the vagina (labia) or at the opening of the vagina. Sometimes they can be found around or inside the anus. But warts usually aren’t red...instead, they’re generally described as being skin-colored, pink or grayish.
For more information about genital warts, you can visit our HPV Overview. Why? Because genital warts are caused by some types of the human papillomavirus which can be treated and managed to reduce the risk of potentially serious complications down the road.
What else can cause little red bumps?
A different STD, like herpes simplex virus, is a common cause of little red bumps in the genital area. Herpes simplex virus (both HSV-1 and HSV-2) can cause red bumps or sores. You can catch herpes through skin-to-skin contact with someone else who’s infected with the virus, especially by unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex. Although there isn’t a cure for herpes, it can easily be treated with oral antiviral medications that help reduce the discomfort and frequency of outbreaks. For more about herpes risks, symptoms and treatment, see our Expert Guide to Herpes 1 + 2.
Little red bumps in the genital area don’t always mean an STD – some other causes of red bumps are ingrown hairs or pimples. Sometimes, especially when the groin area is shaved, ingrown hairs can occur. If these become infected, they can look like red bumps or a rash. Also, pimples don’t just happen on your face...you can get pimples in the groin area, too.
To be on the safe side, I encourage you to visit your doctor for an exam. Your doctor can also help you determine what STD tests are right for you. If you test positive for an STD, you can start treatment right away, if necessary.
I hope this information helped explain a few of your options. Thanks again for your question, and best of luck resolving your symptoms.
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.