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Genital Warts

Genital Warts Overview

Genital warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). They are transmitted through sexual contact and mainly affect the youth in their 20s. The warts grow in the moist tissues of the genital areas like the vulva, vagina, and cervix in case of females and the tip and/or shaft of the penis in males. They may also appear in and around the anal region. If there is oral sexual contact between the partners, these warts may also appear in the mouth and the throat.

What are Genital Warts?

Genital warts are among the most common types of sexually transmitted diseases (STD). Medically known as condylomata acuminata or venereal warts, they are caused by a virus called the human papilloma virus (HPV). There are over 100 different types of HPV which can affect the body. Most genital warts are caused by types 6 and 11.

Who is at risk?

  • People who do not practice safe sex.

  • People who have multiple partners and do not practice safe sex are at the greatest risk of contracting genital warts.

Genital Warts Symptoms

The visual symptoms of genital warts, the warts themselves, may take anywhere from two weeks to several months or longer to appear. There may be small, fleshy growths, bumps or skin changes which may appear anywhere in or on the genital or anal area

Genital warts may occur singly or in groups; an individual may have just one or two or they may have dozens. The warts may itch but are usualy painless.

A doctor or nurse will usually be able to tell if you have genital warts by looking at the symptoms.

It is not uncommon for people not to develop visible symptoms of genital warts. Men can develop warts inside the urethra and women can develop warts deep inside the vagina. There can also be an interval of up to 18 months between infection and the appearance of visible symptoms.

Genital Warts Diagnosis

Genital Warts are usually diagnosed through a visual examination by a doctor or nurse. Even if you or your partner are sure you have genital warts it is still adviseable to have a check up to confirm.

Genital Warts Treatment

Treatment for genital warts will depend on what the warts look like, how many you have and where they are. As genital warts are caused by a virus and not a bacteria, antibiotics will not get rid of them. You will only need treatment if the warts are visible. Warts can be removed by putting a cream or liquid onto the warts, freezing, heat, surgery or laser treatment. 

The underlying virus can not be completely removed and the genital warts may reappear even after treatment.

  • Podophyllotoxin solution and Podophyllotoxin cream: This treatments can be applied in a clinic or at home by the patient. A typical treatment course will last up to four weeks.

  • Podophyllin Solution: This treatments is usually administered by clinical staff. It must be washed off within four hours as it is toxic and can irritate the surrounding skin.

  • TCA (Trichloroacetic Acid): This is a caustic chemical applied to the warts by clinic staff.

  • Immune Response Modifiers: These enhance the immune system's ability to fight the virus responsible for gential warts.

  • Cryotherapy: This involves freezing the warts with liquid nitrogen by clinical staff. This kills cells in the warts and some surrounding skin.

  • Cauterizing: This involves burning off the warts by clinical staff with an electrically heated probe, after numbing the area with a local anaesthetic.

  • Laser Treatment: This may be done under general or local anaesthetic at the clinic. This can be usefull for treating areas with a lot of warts. The heat of the laser kills the cells.

  • Surgery: Surgical removal of the warts may be done in hospital.

How Quickly Does Treatment Work?

In some people the warts will go away very quickly but for others the warts can be more stubborn and may need to be treated a number of times. If one treatment doesn't work another treatment or combination of treatments can be tried.

Prevention of Genital Warts

The following can all help with the prevention of genital warts

  • Safe sex: Since HPV is an STD that spreads through skin-to-skin contact, using a condom every time you have sex can significantly reduce your risk of contracting HPV.

  • Abstinence: You need to avoid sexual contact until the warts are treated. You must tell your sexual partner about it and insist on getting her/him examined too.

  • Vaccination: A new vaccine called Gardasil has given hopes of protection from the most dangerous types of HPV. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the vaccine in June 2006. The recommended age by the national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is between 11 and 12 years. However, you may get vaccinated even if you fall in the age group of 13 to 26 years. The vaccine is most effective if given before the teenager is sexually active.

Genital Warts and Cervical Cancer

A relationship between the human papilloma virus (HPV) and cancer of the cervix has been established. Cervical cancer is more prevalent in women who suffer from HPV than in the rest of the populations. It is extremely important for any women who has suffered from genital warts or who has had unprotected sex with a man with genital warts to have regular smear tests.

Next: Genital Warts Symptoms

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Genital Warts Index



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