HPV Genital Warts

Genital warts is not just common, but really common. Thousands of women develop this embarrassing health condition. Almost without exception, all the circumstances of genital warts are caused by a sexually acquired infection with human papillomavirus, that is, HPV. Men and women alike become infected with genital HPV, the infection being transmitted from one person to the other. The issue is that a person can spread the STD without realizing it. What is more, HPV is likely to be transmitted when the warts are present.


HPV/Genital Warts Overview & Facts

HPV is a class of viruses that affect the mucosa as well as the skin. It is a prevailing STD. In fact, almost all people who participate in sexual activity with another person are likely to contract this viral infection at some point. Attention needs to be paid to the fact that the types of human papillomavirus that cause genital warts are not identical to the ones that cause cervical cancer. There are over 100 varieties of HPV, more than 40 of thembeing connected with the genitals.  The vast majority of HPVs are not dangerous and they are cleared away by the body. The strains that cause genital warts – HPV 6 and 11 – are harmless and only exceptionally the lesions become malignant.

Genital warts (condylomata acuminata) are symptoms of HPV infections, affecting both men and women alike. However, women are the ones who are prone to developing complications. Condylomata acuminata are basically soft bumps that appear on the genitals. They can present themselves on the skin around the genitals and anus. The outward aspect of genital warts is homogeneous. To be more precise, they gather in groups of 3 0r 4. The lesions may have a pinkish or grayish color, while the texture is very similar to that of a cauliflower. As a rule, genital warts do not grow for more than 6 months and they are virtually painless.

A person gets genitals warts after having skin-to-skin contact with someone who is infected with the HPV virus. Although they are not particularly dangerous, they are embarrassing. There are several types of genital warts. It is important to mention that warts can grow anywhere on the body. The most common types are:

  • Flat warts: These benign skin growths can materialize on the face or legs, on the back of the hands. They are most commonly referred to juvenile warts because they affect children and young adults.
  • Plantar warts: Plantar warts develop on the heels and other areas of the feet. They can be confused with calluses, having a pinkish or brownish color.

HPV infection is transmitted during sex. Nevertheless, non-sexual transmission of the virus is not excluded.


Signs and Symptoms of HPV/Genital Warts

As mentioned previously, genital warts are symptoms of HPV. Contamination with the viral infection does not always have visible manifestations. This means that it is possible to have the virus that causes condylomata acuminata, but to not get any symptom at all.  Anyway, the signs and symptoms of genital warts are:

  • Abnormal bumps in the genital area (labia majora, thighs, scrotum, penile shaft, groin, inside or around the anal opening)
  • Conglomeration of cauliflower-shaped papules
  • Itching or irritation, redness
  • Anxiety
  • Bleeding
  • Abnormal flow of urine

Genital warts do not appear immediately after sexual contact. It may take 4 weeks or it may take 8 months. Sometimes, the person may not have other manifestations than the warts, which are not always visible if optics are not used. When the symptoms do manifest, they go unnoticed due to the fact that they are similar to those of other illnesses. Those who happen to notice any of these signs and symptoms should go to a doctor.


HPV Genital Warts Symptoms


Diagnosis of HPV/Genital Warts

Diagnosing genital warts (HPV infection) is not complicated for a medical practitioner. It is sufficient for the doctor to take a look at the genital area. In addition to examining the papules, the trained professional will remove the upper part of the wart and look for clotted blood vessels. The medical practitioner can also do a biopsy and test for other types of skin illnesses. The bumps look just like molluscum contagiosum, so it is necessary to rule out this possibility. A detailed assessment is not always necessary. It all depends on the location of the condylomata acuminata. Diagnosing genital warts is not difficult, but people refuse to seek medical help. The reason for this is that they are ashamed to have contracted an STD.

It is of paramount importance to diagnose genital warts early. The longer the HPV infection goes undiagnosed, the more damage it does. Complications of HPV include pregnancy complications (difficulty urinating) and cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is most commonly associated with genital HPV infection. According to scientific research, the vast majority of people having a subclinical papillomavirus infection were treated for this type of cancer. There is no guarantee, but the evidence suggests that genital warts could succeed cervical cancer. Pap smear (Pap test) is the most important test that a specialist can perform.


Treatment and Care of HPV/Genital Warts

There is no cure for human papillomavirus, but the good news is that there are treatment options for the problems that HPV creates.  The aim of any kind of medical care is to remove the noticeable lumps from the skin and relieve the upsetting symptoms. Treatment for genital warts includes:

  • Application of topical solutions (creams, lotions, chemicals).
  • Eliminating the warts by freezing (cryotherapy) or heating (electrocautery).
  • Surgically removing the warts
  • Using interferon, which is injected directly into the bumps.

More often than not, the HPV infection that causes the genital warts goes away on its own. For some people, the bumps may clear up on their own within a few months, while for others it may take even 2 years. The fact is that medical treatment can help the process go at a faster rate. At the end of the therapy, the person may still have the virus in their body.

The genital HPV infection can be successfully managed with medicine. Patients need to care for themselves at home. What they can do is take warm baths several times a day, maintain the papules hygienic and dry, and, most importantly, avoid using over-the-counter medicine because they can do more harm than good. It cannot be stressed enough that condylomata acuminata are caused by different varieties of human papillomavirus. Home remedies might help, yet there is no proof to support this fact.


How HPV/Genital Warts Can Be Avoided

Men and women can protect themselves against HPV and the serious health consequences that it leads to. So, genital warts can be avoided. There is a vaccine available and it is for intramuscular injection. The serum contains capsid L1 proteins that bear a striking resemblance to human papillomavirus. The particles are not virulent because they do not contain any viral genetic material. Gardasil protects against HPV strains 6, 11, 16, and 18. For the variety that leads to cervical cancer there is a special antiserum.

The American Cancer Society strongly recommends HPV vaccination at a young age because it produces the most considerable response on the immune system, clearing the pathogen before it can cause harm. Men and women up to 26 years can receive HPV vaccination. This is called catch-up vaccination. Those who lead an active sex life should consider the possibility of getting immunization. A vaccine can help prevent genital warts, cancer, and transmitting the STD to another person.


Preventing the Spread of HPV/Genital Warts

HPV vaccination is not the only way to prevent the spread of genital warts. It is recommended for people to avoid engaging in any kind of sexual activity until the growths heal completely. Those who insist on having intimate relations should use latex condoms during sexual intercourse. Latex condoms have been testes for efficiency and the results are positive. This can reduce the risk of getting genital HPV. Yet, the areas that are not covered by the condom are not protected.

Viral particles can penetrate the skin and mucosal surfaces during copulation, which is the reason why they are dangerous. Another thing people should do is change their sexual habits. More specifically, they should not have more than one sexual partner. Partners should be honest with each other and disclose things like STDs. Having had a sexually transmitted disease can complicate things. What is more, it is possible to get infected with another type of HPV.


Incidence and Prevalence of HPV/Genital Warts

According to specialized literature, the incidence and prevalence of HPV and condylomata acuminata is extremely high. It has been estimated that the number is somewhere between 340, 000 and 360, 000. In other words, the genital HPV infection is one of the most common transmitted ones in the world. Studies take into account the adult population (males and females), from the ages of 20 to 40. Young people are mostly affected by human papillomavirus. In the past, it was believed that people from certain background get infected.

At present, it is known that people of different backgrounds, religion, and age can get the viral infection. In the United Kingdom, it is imperative to inform about existing cases of genital warts. In other European countries, data relating to the spread of the diseases is obtained from epidemiological studies and sales of medicines. Medscape informs us that in the United States the annual incidence is 1%, while in Europe and the world, HPV infections are just as frequent. The rate of occurrence is higher in people aged 20-24 years.


Myths and Misconceptions

Myth #1: Only people who have casual sex get genital arts

The common belief is that only people who engage in sexual activities outside romantic relationships are prone to developing an HPV infection. The fact is that everyone who has sexual intercourse is at risk. There is no denying that the number of sexual partners is a risk factor, but every person can carry the HPV virus without even knowing it. Genital warts are passed on through skin-to-skin contact. Therefore, even people who are married with children are at risk of becoming infected.

Myth #2: Men can get screened for HPV

No, there is no test available for men. The screening tests that are available today are only for women. Unfortunately, they cannot be used to diagnose genital warts or cancer in males.  The only thing that the doctor can do is perform a physical examination. Some medical practitioners resort to using a vinegar solution so as to spot the lesions that are not visible to the naked eye.

Myth #3: If you have genital warts, you will get them again

Many people live in fear, thinking that they will develop genital warts once again. The thing is that genital warts do not recur after treatment. Well, some strains do, but not all of them. What happens is that the body’s immune system defeats the infection. If the HPV infection is not fully treated, then recurrences are indeed possible. When the lesions do come back, they are more persistent.

Myth #4: Genital warts cause cancer

This is not exactly a myth. As mentioned earlier, the strains that cause genital warts and cancer are not the same ones. However, a small percentage of papules can transform into cancerous lesions, if left untreated.


Who Is At Risk of Developing HPV/Genital Warts

Despite the fact that human papillomavirus infections are quite common, there are certain HPV/genital warts risk factors like:

  • Impaired immunity system: if the immune system is impaired, then the risk of developing or contracting condylomata acuminata is higher. The immune system can be undermined by medications and human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
  • Damaged skin: Skin damage makes it easier for the viral particles to cause damage.
  • Tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption



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