Genital Warts: Causes, Symptoms and Remedies

Genital warts

Genital warts is not just an infection, it’s an infectious disease that affects a large number of the world’s populace today. It is one of the most common sexually transmitted disease and it is incurable. However, it can be managed with proper treatment.

Genital warts is usually passed on by vaginal sex, anal sex, oral sex, sharing sex toys.

It is also very different from genital psoriasis which is an auto-immune disease condition that affects the skin around the genitals.

In this article, you will get to understand what a genital wart looks like, what is responsible for it as well as how it can be prevented.

What are genital warts?

Genital warts are soft skin growth or bumps which may occur separately or in clusters. It may be found in the anal or genital area, including the penile shaft, scrotum, vagina or labia majora.

It may also be found on the internal surfaces of the vagina and the anus. They can be small (5mm or less in diameter) or spread into large masses in the genital or anal area.

The color of these warts are variable but tends to be skin-colored or darker and may occasionally bleed spontaneously. They could also cause itching, redness or discomfort.

Genital warts is usually transmitted by a virus known as the human papilloma virus (HPV). This virus is also responsible cervical or anal cancer

 

Causes of genital warts

You remember we said that genital warts is transmitted by HPV right? It is also a recognized symptom of the genital HPV infection. However, not everyone show this symptom. In fact, only 10% of people who are infected will transmit the virus.

There are over a 100 types of HPV but the type 6 and 11 are the only ones that cause genital warts.

The HPV is mainly transmitted through skin- to- skin contact, which is why it’s considered an STD

HPV is transmitted primarily through penetrative sex. It is less commonly transmitted via non-penetrative sex activity

Symptoms of genital warts

Please note that genital warts aren’t always visible to the human eye. They may also appear on the lips, mouth, throat or tongue of a person who has had oral sexual contact with a person who has HPV.

But even if not seen, they may still cause symptoms such as:

  • Vaginal discharge
  • Itching
  • Bleeding
  • Burning

Pictures of Genital Warts

 

 

 

Genital warts on the vulva

 

Risk Factors for genital warts

Risk factors for genital warts include:

  • Age: People under age 30
  • Smoking
  • Weakened immune system
  • Having multiple sex partners

In fact, Centre for disease control and prevention (CDC)  says most sexually active people will have HPV at some point, this could be because it’s very common. The virus however in most cases goes on it’s own and doesn’t always lead to genital warts.

Diagnosis of genital warts

The diagnosis of genital warts is usually made visually, although a biopsy may be needed for confirmation or if patient is immunocompromised.

DNA tests should not be used for diagnosis or in low-risk HPV infections because genital warts are caused by low risk HPV types.

Cystoscopy should be considered in patients where the glans is involved, the patient has lower urinary tract symptoms or significant urethral symptoms.

 

Treatment of genital warts

Is there a cure for genital warts? The answer is no. Because even after the visible warts is gone, the HPV still remains, which implies that the genital warts will keep coming back.

Managing the symptoms is therefore very important to prevent transmitting the virus to others.

Genital warts can be passed on to others even without the visible warts or other symptoms.

Treatment varies depending on the number, size and location of warts and also cause permanent depigmentation, itching, pain and scarring.

Genital warts cannot be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) wart removers and treatment. Remember, we mentioned earlier that there are over 100 types of HPV, the type of HPV responsible for the warts found on the hands and other parts of the body is very different from that of the genitals.

Having said all these we will look into possible treatment for genital warts.

Medications

Topical medications that are used include:

  • Imiquimod (Aldara)
  • Podophylin and podofilox (Condylox)
  • Trichloroacetic acid or TCA
  • Isotretinoin
  • Sinecatechins

Surgery

Stubborn visible warts that don’t go easily can be removed through minor surgery such as:

  • Electrocautery, or burning warts with electric currents
  • Cryosurgery, or freezing warts
  • Excision, or cutting off warts
  • Injections of the drug interferon

There are also home remedies for treatment but always check with your doctor before trying anyone out.

 

How to prevent genital warts

  • HPV Vaccination

For previously unvaccinated adults CDC suggests vaccination for those 27 to 45 years of age.

For adolescents, the CDC suggests the vaccine be given at ages 11 or 12 years but may be started as early as 9.

  • The use of condom, also there is still conflicting evidence on the use of condoms in prevention.

 

What are other possible complications of HPV?

Do you still remember we said earlier that genital warts are a low risk strain of HPV infection?

We have high risk strains too such as HPV 16 and HPV 18 and they are implicated in majority of cervical cancers. They also cause other type of cancer such as:

  • Penile cancer
  • Anal cancer
  • Throat cancer
  • Oesophageal cancer

When to contact your doctor

Now, with all that has been said if you have genital warts you need to see your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

In addition you should speak with sexual partner too, this may sound difficult but opening up will help to protect you and by extension prevent further spread of the virus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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