Genital warts are one of the most common types of sexually transmitted infections that affects sexually active people. The virus that causes genital warts is human papillomavirus (HPV). Women are more likely to develop genital warts compared to men.
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Genital warts may appear like small, flesh-colored bumps or have a cauliflower-like appearance. It mostly affect the moist tissues of the genital area. Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Some strains of genital HPV can cause genital warts, while others can cause cancer. Getting vaccinated is essential to help protect against certain strains of genital HPV. In some cases, genital warts may be so small and flat that they can’t be seen with the naked eye. However, genital warts may multiply into large clusters.
Symptoms of Genital Warts
In women: Genital warts can grow on the vulva, walls of the vagina, area between the external genitals and the anus, the anal canal, and the cervix.
In men: Genital warts may occur on the tip or shaft of the penis, the scrotum, or the anus.
Genital warts can also grow in the mouth or throat of a person who has engaged in oral sex with an infected person.
The signs and symptoms of genital warts include:
- Small, flesh-colored or gray swellings in and around the genital area
- Several warts close together, shaped like a cauliflower
- Itching or pain in your genital area
- Bleeding with intercourse
Causes of Genital Warts
Genital warts is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). There are more than 40 different strains of HPV that affect the genital area. Genital HPV is spread through sexual contact. Genital warts may be destroyed in people with strong immune system.
Factors that can increase your risk of becoming infected include:
- Engaging in unprotected sex with multiple partners
- Having had another sexually transmitted infection
- Having sex with a partner who has had a rough sexual history
- Becoming sexually active at an early age
Complications of Genital Warts
Genital wart complications may include:
Problems during pregnancy
Genital warts may grow large, causing difficulty during urination. It may be difficult for the vaginal tissues to stretch during childbirth if there are warts on the vaginal wall. Large warts on the vulva or in the vagina can bleed when stretched during childbirth.
There’s an established link between cervical cancer and genital HPV infection. Certain types of HPV also are associated with cancer of the vulva, cancer of the anus, cancer of the penis, and cancer of the mouth and throat. Human papillomavirus infection doesn’t always lead to cancer, but women should go for Pap test regularly.
Preventing Genital Warts
The use of condom can reduce your risk of getting genital warts, but it is not 100 percent effective.
One sure way of preventing genital warts is by vaccination. A vaccine known as Gardasil protects against four strains of HPV that cause cancer, and is used to prevent genital warts. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a vaccine called Gardasil 9, which protects against nine strains of HPV in 2014.
Another vaccine, called Cervarix, can help protect against cervical cancer but not genital warts.
Routine HPV vaccination for girls and boys ages 11 and 12 was recommended by the national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. If not fully vaccinated at that age, it’s recommended that girls and women through age 26 and boys and men through age 21 receive the vaccine. However, men may receive the HPV vaccine through age 26 if desired. These vaccines are most effective if given to children before they become sexually active.
Treatment of Genital Warts
Warts that are not painful don’t usually require treatment. However, if your symptoms include itching, burning and pain, your doctor can help you clear an outbreak with medications or surgery. However, the lesions are likely to return even after treatment. There is no permanent treatment for the virus itself.
Genital wart treatments that can be applied directly to your skin include:
- Imiquimod (Aldara, Zyclara): This cream helps boost the ability of your immune system to combat genital warts. However, you should not engage in sexual contact while the cream is on your skin. It may weaken condoms and diaphragms and may irritate your partner’s skin.
One possible side effect is redness of the skin. Other side effects may include blisters, body aches or pain, cough, rashes, and fatigue.
- Trichloroacetic acid (TCA): This chemical treatment burns off genital warts, and can be used for internal warts. Side effects can include mild skin irritation, sores or pain.
- Podophyllin and podofilox (Condylox). Podophyllin is a plant-based resin that destroys genital wart tissue. Your doctor must apply this solution. Podofilox contains the same active compound, but can be safely applied by you at home.
- Sinecatechins (Veregen). This cream is used for treatment of external genital warts and warts in or around the anal canal. Side effects are often mild and may include reddening of the skin, itching or burning, and pain.
Don’t try to treat genital warts with over-the-counter wart removers. These medications aren’t intended for use in the moist tissues of the genital area. Using over-the-counter medications for this purpose can cause even more pain and irritation.
You may need surgery to remove larger warts or warts that don’t respond to medications. Surgery may be used for pregnant women in some cases. Surgical options include:
- Freezing with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy). Freezing the warts causes a blister to form around your wart. As your skin heals, the lesions slough off, allowing new skin to appear. You may need repeated cryotherapy treatments. The main side effects include pain and inflammation.
- Electrocautery: You may experience pain and swelling after this procedure that uses an electrical current to burn off warts.
- Surgical excision. Your doctor may use special tools to cut off warts. You’ll need local or general anesthesia for this treatment.
- Laser treatments. This method uses an intense beam of light warts that are difficult to treat.
Article source: Mayoclinic.org, Image source: uvahealth.com
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