Sex Talk

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Q from a Female, Senior Texas A&M: What are the symptoms of genital warts?

Dr. Caron's Answer: Genital warts are determined by visible inspection. HPV (human papilloma virus) causes genital warts, which is a very common virus, infecting about 1 out of every 4 sexually active people. The warts typically appear on the genitals as soft, pink, painless single or multiple growths resembling a small cauliflower. In men, they may appear on the penis, foreskin, and scrotum, and within the urethra. In women, they may be found on the vulva, in the vagina, and on the cervix. The warts begin to appear 1-3 months after contact and are diagnosed visibly at a health clinic specializing in sexually transmitted infections. They may be removed by freezing, burning, dehydration with an electrical needle, or surgery. Although such treatments may remove the warts, please be aware that they do not rid the body of the virus - so there may be recurrences.

Q from a Female, Senior student at the University of Maine: Can you get genital herpes from someone with a cold sore giving you oral sex?

A: Yes. Genital herpes infection is caused by exposure to the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV 1) or herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV 2) through sexual contact. HSV 1 initially was associated with oral infection (cold sores and fever blisters around the mouth) and HSV 2 with genital infection (blisters on the penis or vulva). Over the past 30 years, however, the increased popularity of oral sex has led to an almost equal probability of transferring either form from mouth to genitals and vice versa. The two viruses are not different clinically, as both cause the same painful symptoms. A person with blisters on the mouth cannot only transfer the virus to another person’s genitals, and vice versa, but a person with herpes can transfer it to other parts of his or her own body by touch, including the eyes, as well (this is called autoinoculation). A 2-12 day incubation period follows transmission of the virus. There is no cure, but there is treatment to speed the healing of the painful blisters. An estimated 20-30 million people are presently infected with genital herpes in the U.S. You should know that the virus can be easily spread by even a quick, casual kiss and thus it should not be assumed that a person with oral herpes got it from performing oral sex. By the way, not all mouth ulcers are caused by the herpes virus; they can also be caused by bacteria, allergic reactions, or autoimmune (canker sores) responses. However, “fever blisters” and most cold sores are herpes.

© 2008, Sandra L. Caron

*    *    *

It is not sex that gives the pleasure, but the lover. - Marge Piercy

American teens have the worst of all worlds...Our children are bombarded and confronted with sexual messages, sexual exploitation, and all manner of sexual criticism. But our society is by and large sexually illiterate. Faye Westheimer

Dr. Sandra L. Caron is a professor of human sexuality at the University of Maine. To submit a question to Dr. Caron or chat with your peers visit Got a question for Dr. Caron? Visit and ask away! Get a guaranteed personal and confidential response to your question: or E-Mail

Contact Us | Disclaimer | Privacy Statement
Menstuff® Directory
Menstuff® is a registered trademark of Gordon Clay
©1996-2019, Gordon Clay