Genital Warts 101

Genital Warts is a Sexually Transmitted Infection Caused by HPV

Genital warts
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Genital warts, also known as condylomata acuminata, is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. It is a form of human papillomavirus, also known as HPV, a sexually transmitted viral infection. There are many strains of HPV which can infect the genitalia, mouth and throats of men and women. The immune system of some people will remove the infection over the course time, but, for others, HPV may lead to genital warts or cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina and anus.

It is estimated that at least half of all sexually active people will contract HPV at some point in their lives. More women than men will develop genital warts. 

Risk Factors of Genital Warts

HPV is contracted by anyone who is sexually active. Factors that increase the risk of developing genital warts include the following:

  • Unprotected vaginal sex
  • Anal sex
  • Oral sex
  • Genital-to-genital contact
  • Childbirth
  • Previous sexually transmitted disease

Many types of HPV are treatable while other types can be managed in order to prevent complications, such as cervical cancer.

Symptoms of HPV

Because there are so many different strains of HPV symptoms and the severity of the infection will vary. Some patients do not experience any symptoms. For others, the symptoms may include:

  • Genital warts
  • Cervical cancer
  • Cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis or anus
  • Cancer of the back of the throat

Symptoms of Genital Warts

Genital warts affect the moist tissue of the genital area.

They may appear as small, flesh-colored bumps or as a group of bumps in the genital area. They can vary in size and sometimes appear shaped like a cauliflower. In most instances, the warts are too small to be seen.

Diagnosis of HPV

Regular testing for HPV is recommended in order to screen for cervical cancer and other complications of HPV.

There is no standard test to diagnosis HPV. It is important that women undergo regular Pap screenings to detect abnormalities that may indicate an HPV infection. If there is an abnormality, a DNA test, which can test for high-risk strains of HPV, can be conducted. If warts or lesions appear in the genital area, you should seek medical attention and testing for HPV.

Complications of HPV

While certain cases of HPV may resolve on their own, certain types of HPV can develop into cervical, penile, or anal cancer. It is important that you make regular screening important.

Treatment of HPV

There is no cure for HPV. Treatment is available for symptoms such as genital warts, cervical cancer and cervical changes. Treatment will depend on the diagnosis and the severity of the infection.

Genital warts can be treated with:

  • Medication
  • Cream
  • Cryotherapy
  • Electrocautery
  • Laser treatment
  • Surgery to remove the warts

Treatment will remove the warts but not the infection. You will still be able to spread the HPV infection to your sexual partner.

Other lesions can be treated with surgery, laser treatments or cryotherapy to prevent them from becoming cervical cancer. 

Prevention of HPV

The only way to completely effective method to prevent HPV is to abstain from sexual activity. Other methods include sustaining a mutually monogamous relationship between two disease-free partners. While latex condoms are recommended they do not offer protection against the spread of HPV because HPV can be spread by skin contact alone, without the presence of a lesion. 

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