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Genital Warts Information, Symptoms and Prevention and Treatment

Find Medication for Genital Wart Treatment.

Genital warts (aka, venereal warts or condylomata acuminate), are one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases worldwide, affecting 5.5 million Americans each year. At least 20 million people in the USA are already infected.

About Genital Warts

Genital Warts Information, Symptoms and Prevention and Treatment

HPV genital warts are caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). However, many people may have a genital HPV infection without having genital warts. More than 100 different viruses have been identified and are responsible for warts anywhere on the body, most of which are harmless. Only certain types are sexually transmitted. About 30 types are spread by direct sexual contact; this includes skin-to-skin contact during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Other common types of HPV cause warts on the hands and the soles of the feet; these are not to be associated with genital warts. Some types may cause changes in cells that increase the risk of cervical and certain other cancers. Most types seem to have no harmful effect at all.

Genital warts affect the moist tissues of the genital area. They are small, flat, flesh-colored bumps that may appear in the genital area within weeks or months after infection. They may also grow in clusters that have a cauliflower-like appearance. Genital warts vary in size. A genital wart is usually less than one quarter inch in diameter, but can vary from so small that you can't see it to an inch in diameter if they remain untreated. In women, genital warts can grow on the vulva and perineal area, the walls of the vagina and on the cervix, the area between the external genitals and the anus, and the neck of the uterus. In men, they may appear on the tip or shaft of the penis, the scrotum or the anus. Some cases have found genital warts on the thigh and groin area. They can also develop in the mouth or throat of a person who has had oral sexual contact with an infected person. Genital warts can also lead to cervical cancer in women and cancer of the penis in men. Many people infected with HPV have no symptoms and do not know they are infected.

Some HPVs cause common skin warts such as:

  • butcher's warts
  • common hand warts
  • juvenile warts
  • plantar warts on the feet

How Do You Get HPV or Genital Warts?

HPV is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). The most common way to get HPV is by having vaginal, oral, or anal sex with someone who has HPV. Abstinence is the only sure way to prevent getting genital warts or any STD. If you are sexually active, you and your partner should be tested to find out if you have an STD. Just because you can’t see warts on your partner does not mean they aren’t infected. HPV can have a long incubation period. This means that many months can pass between the time a person is infected with the virus and the time the warts may appear. Sometimes, the warts can take years to develop. In women, the warts may be inside the body, on the surface of the cervix, so you can’t see them. Condoms offer some protection, but can not always cover all of the affected skin.

Genital Warts Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of STDs

  • an unusual odor or discharge from the vagina

  • pain in the pelvic area – the area between the belly button and genitals

  • pain in the groin area – the area around the genitals

  • genital burning or itching

  • bleeding from the vagina that is not a regular period

  • pain deep inside the vagina during sexual intercourse

  • penile drip or discharge

  • sores, bumps or blisters near the genitals, rectum or mouth

  • burning and pain during urination or bowel movement

  • frequent urination

Signs and Symptoms of Genital Warts

  • growths or bumps that appear in and around the vagina or anus or on the cervix in females, or on the penis, scrotum, groin, or thigh in males

  • appear to be raised or flat, single or multiple, large or small in size

  • can cluster together to form a cauliflower-like shape

  • are usually flesh-colored
  • discomfort, pain, or bleeding during intercourse

  • itching or burning in your genital area

Often there are no symptoms attached to genital warts. It may take several months or years after infection for symptoms to appear. The average incubation period is 1 to 6 months, but may vary. Occasionally, the warts are so small and flat that they can’t be seen with the naked eye, and may not be noticed immediately.

In women, a genital vaginal wart can occur on the inside and outside of the vagina. Genital warts can also appear on the opening of the uterus (cervix), or around the anus. These warts may be flat and invisible. Because the Genital Warts virus can lead to changes in the cervix that may lead to cervical cancer, it's important that this condition is diagnosed and treated. Men infected with HPV can also be at risk for cancer of the penis and the anus.

How Are Genital Warts Spread?

Genital warts are very contagious and are spread during vaginal, oral, or anal sex with an infected person. They are transmitted by direct skin-to-skin contact during vaginal and anal sex, oral sex, and although it is less risky, during non-penetrative sex play. It is also possible for sex toys to carry an infection from one partner to another. In rare cases, HPV may spread without direct sexual contact, such as using a towel to wipe your genitals after is has been used by someone who has HPV or genital warts.

How Are HPV And Genital Warts Diagnosed?

If you notice genital warts in your genital area, visit your doctor immediately. Your doctor can diagnose genital warts just by examining you. If there are no obvious warts, your doctor may apply a vinegar (acetic acid) solution to areas of your body that might be infected. This solutions causes infected areas to turn white, making very small or flat warts more visible. In some cases, your doctor may take a sample (biopsy) of cervical tissue for further investigations.

An abnormal Pap smear result may indicate possible presence of cervical HPV infection. In order to detect cervical cancer, a laboratory worker will examine cells scraped from your cervix under a microscope.

Genital Warts Treatment

Although HPV has no known cure, you can find a treatment for genital warts. Since warts often disappear without treatment, you can decide if you want to remove them. Some people may want to remove warts because they are causing itching, burning, or discomfort. Others may want to clear up visible warts. If you decide on removal of genital warts, over the counter medications should NOT be used as a genital wart treatment. These chemicals are used to remove warts from your hands and feet and may make your genital skin very sore. There are special treatments for genital warts. Your doctor may treat genital warts by applying a chemical in the office, or prescribing a cream you can apply at home. These chemicals dissolve the warts and may need to be applied to the area a number of times over a period of several weeks before the treatment is complete. Surgery is also an option.

Genital Wart Medication

In addition, there are medications available for genital wart treatment. These medications are used topically to treat warts on the skin of the anal and genital areas. Some medications can be used to remove certain types of warts on the outside skin of the genital areas.

Surgical treatments include:

  • Electrocautery - an electric current us used to burn off the warts

  • Laser treatment - light is used to destroy warts

  • Cryosurgery - freezing the warts off

  • Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) - cutting them out

Although treatments can get rid of the warts, the viral infection itself can not be cured. The virus is always present in your skin, and because of this, warts often come back after treatment. You may need to have them removed more than once.

Prevention of Genital Warts

Like most STDs, genital warts can be avoided by not having sex (abstinence) or having sex with one uninfected partner.

Condoms offer some protection, but they can’t completely prevent infection because the warts can be outside the area protected by the condom. Spermicidal foams, creams, and jellies have not been proven to protect against HPV and genital warts.

Prevention may be possible by:

  • Abstinence in the only 100 percent-effective way to avoid infection

  • Avoid sexual contact with infected persons

  • Have a mutually monogamous sexual relationship with an uninfected partner

  • Limit your number of sexual partners throughout your lifetime

  • Correctly and consistently use a condom

  • Use clean needle if you are injecting intravenous drugs

  • Having regular pap smears to look for cervical problems

  • Protect your immune system by living a healthy lifestyle

  • Stop smoking. Smokers are more likely to develop reoccurring warts

If you or your sexual partner has genital warts, you should avoid any sexual contact until the warts are treated. If your warts are recurrent or you have a new sexual partner you may consider using condoms during intercourse. Urge your partner to be examined by a doctor and be knowledgeable about the disease. Men may carry HPV even though no warts are detected, because they are on the inside of the penis. Seek treatment and get tested for STDs regularly, early detection and treatment makes it easier to get rid of the warts.

What Happens If I Don’t Get Genital Warts Treated?

Genital warts can grow if you do not get them treated. If you are sexually active, you may risk infecting your partner.

Certain kinds of HPV can cause abnormal cells to grow on the cervix. Sometimes, these cells can become cancerous if left untreated. Other kinds of HPV can cause cancer of the vagina, vulva, anus or penis.

Possible Complications of HPV and Genital Warts

Cervical Cancer Genital Warts

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is responsible for the majority of cervical cancer cases. Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers that affect a woman’s reproductive organs. Cervical cancer can be prevented, and if treated early can be cured.

  • A women can lower her risk of cervical cancer by:
  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid the use of oral contraceptive
  • Abstinence
  • Getting regular check-ups and Pap Smears

Pregnancy and Childbirth

Women who had genital warts in the past, but no longer have them, will most likely not have any problems during pregnancy or birth. However, you should tell your doctor immediately so they can prevent any complications that may arise. Sometimes women who have genital warts during pregnancy will find that they grow and may become larger and bleed. It may become difficult to urinate, and if the warts are in the vagina, they can make the vagina less elastic, causing obstruction during delivery.

In rare cases, a pregnant women can pass HPV to her baby during vaginal delivery. Infants can develop warts in their throat (laryngeal papillomatosis) or voice box, causing breathing problems. Sometimes in severe cases, fatal developmental disabilities can occur. A cesarean section may be needed in order to prevent these problems.

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