Genital Warts Treatment

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Anything to do with genitals is bound to be a sensitive topic, and one that is difficult to broach with a doctor, let alone deal with yourself. If you suffer from genital warts then it is perfectly normal to be a bit embarrassed and concerned, and you should rest assured that the condition isn’t a particularly dangerous one, nor is it that uncommon. This article should give you some information on the condition, but remember that because of the sensitivity of that area, it’s always advisable that you seek professional medical help.

What are genital warts?

Condyloma, more commonly known as genital warts, are small growths caused by certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) which occur in and around the genitals of both men and women. These warts can be grey, white, or the same colour as your skin, and are able to form masses that look a bit like a cauliflower. This is unsightly and can often be a cause for concern, but rest assured that the condition remains relatively harmless despite its appearance. Genital warts are an STI, or sexually transmitted infection. It is estimated that your chances of catching the infection from an infected partner are about 60% if you have a single sexual encounter. The virus can remain dormant within your body for varying periods of time, in some cases years, before you see any actual genital warts. For men these warts will form on the penis or near the anus, while for women they may grow in the vagina (referred to as vaginal warts), cervix, or vulva.

Genital warts vary hugely in size, with some being quite large and others remaining almost invisible to the eye. They also vary in how they feel, with some just being visual nuisances while others create an itching or burning that is extremely uncomfortable. These warts can either appear flat or raised, they may present as a single wart or as a large group of them. In this sense genital warts are extremely diverse, and are hence largely classified by their proximity to genitalia and their mode of transmission.

What causes genital warts?

As mentioned above, genital warts are caused by HPV, the human papilloma virus. HPV exists in very many different subtypes which can cause different types of warts. In the case of genital warts, the particular strain of HPV causing the condition is passed on from person to person by sexual contract. Because of this genital warts are classed as a sexually transmitted infection. HPV tends to be an extremely contagious virus, and is often transferred through skin to skin contact with an infected individual.

Only a few strains out of the 130 known types of HPV can cause genital warts, and as such the condition remains rarer than common warts. That being said the condition remains contagious and if you are engaging in regular intercourse with multiple partners, regular testing is the best way to avoid developing the condition. For women regular Pap smears are an easy and convenient way to test for genital warts.

Are genital warts dangerous?

Generally speaking genital warts aren’t dangerous, however there are exceptions. Women undergoing labour can risk passing the virus on to a new born if she has untreated genital warts. The child will come into contact with the warts during childbirth and can have an infection on his or her face and neck, and in some cases within the nose and throat. Women can also experience bleeding during sexual intercourse if genital warts are present within the cervix. Some sources believe that genital warts can contribute to the development of genital cancers, however most evidence indicates that only specific high risk strains of HPV bear a cancer threat.

Can genital warts be treated?

Genital warts can most definitely be treated, however care must be taken during the course of treatment because of the sensitive nature of the area in question. The most commonly used treatments for the condition are the use of topical creams like Podophyllin. Unfortunately such creams can’t be used during pregnancy because of the risk of certain types of birth defects. There are many over the counter treatments for warts that shouldn’t be used for the genital variety because of the potential irritation they can cause. An anti-viral drug can be used as a treatment, this is called Interferon-Alpha and will be injected straight into the wart to heal it. For larger warts or particularly large clusters surgical and laser options are available.

The good news for many people is that your body’s natural immune system is particularly good at learning how to deal with intruders like genital warts, and will learn how to fight off the virus within a year or two of infection. During this time warts may come and go and vary in severity, so finding a treatment regime that works is always a good idea.

Can I prevent genital warts?

You can actually get a vaccination for the human papillomavirus (HPV) responsible for genital warts. This vaccination, known as Gardasil, is only used on girls and women under the age of 26 and above the age of 9. At present there is no male vaccination, which is a shame because Gardasil can prevent up to 90% of genital wart infections, and has the added bonus of providing women with some protection against cervical cancer as well. The most effective method of prevention however is a limit on your number of sexual partners, ideally keeping the number down to one partner who is known to be infection free. Remember that even if warts are not visible, an infection might still be present.

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