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Diseases & Conditions

Genital warts

Genital wartsCausesMedicationsPreventionRisk FactorsSymptomsTreatment

What is Genital warts?

Genital warts are caused to infection with some types of human papillomavirus (HPV). It spreads due to skin to skin contact.

Causes of Genital Warts

Most cases of genital warts are caused due to sexual activity with an infected partner. The HPV subtype that causes it, are type 6 and 11. These are low risk type, meaning they do not have the potential to cause cancer.

When the skin comes in contact with an infected contact either due to intercourse, or oral sex, the virus penetrates the skin and infects. The symptoms do not show immediately. There is a latency period of usually months before the first symptoms show up.

Genital warts are different from other types of warts. They are highly infectious and there is a very high chance, that an uninfected partner will get infected. Use of birth control bills often warrants unprotected sex and this in turn increases the chances of infection with HPV.

Medications for Genital Warts

Medications for genital warts help get rid of the itching. There is no cure for HPV, therefore the aim of medical treatment is to alleviate symptoms.

The most common medical mode of treatment is podofolix solution that is available as gel or cream. It is applied to the skin and it should not be washed away. It is generally applied two times a day.

Prevention of Genital Warts

For prevention of genital warts, a vaccine for HPV should be taken. The vaccine called Gardasil, can be taken by both men and women aged between 9 and 26. The vaccine prevents infection due to HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18. The vaccine is preventive nature and is not a cure. It is also not very effective in those who have already had an infection.

Other prevention means of Genital Warts include:

  • Practicing safe sex
  • Avoiding sex with multiple partners
  • Abstaining from sex until therapy is complete
  • Abstaining from sexual activity if one of the partners is infected

Risk factors of Genital Warts

  • Unprotected sex
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Child abuse victims
  • Previous history of sexually transmitted disease

Symptoms of Genital Warts

  • The size of the wart usually varies from less than a millimeter to more several square centimeters
  • They are raised and often painless.
  • The warts are generally itchy in nature and there is discharge
  • They may cause urinary obstruction if genital warts occur around the urethral opening
  • Warts are not restricted to one area
  • In men, warts are usually found near the urethral opening, the penis, scrotum and the near the anus. The warts may be rough or smooth. Sometimes they may be flat and hidden, making them difficult to identify.
  • In women, HPV generally found near the vaginal opening. However presence of warts outside warrants an inspection of the vaginal canal, cervix and other parts of the uterus if required. Women may experience bleeding and discharge during intercourse.

Treatment of Genital Warts

Treatment of genital warts involves medications to reduce the itching and also to manage the infection. Since the condition is highly infectious, one should avoid touching or picking them. The area should not be subjected to trauma.

Medical treatment includes topical cream and surgery. Left to themselves, the warts will mostly fade away, as the body fights the infections naturally. However, they may cause great discomfort and itching while they are present.

Surgical procedures for HPV are generally preferred only if the warts are large or frequently reoccur. Such procedures include

  • Liquid nitrogen cryosurgery - It kills most of the warts. It is considered safe for pregnancies as well.
  • Laser ablation
  • Electrocauterization - It is surgical procedure that requires spinal or general anesthesia. The recovery time is longer.