Skin growths found in the groin, genital and anal areas are called genital warts. In females, they may also be found in the vagina and cervix, and in males, on the thighs, scrotum, and penis.
Warts may be of different shapes and sizes. While some are flat and white, others look like tiny cauliflowers. However, some are not visible to the naked eye.
warts (condylomata acuminate) are also known as venereal warts. Although other
types of skin warts are harmless, genital warts may need more serious
attention. They are a viral sexually transmitted infection (STI).
people get the virus but do not show any symptoms. It is caused by the
human papillomavirus (HPV - read on for more information on causes).
Warts can appear years, months or weeks after exposure to the disease.
A person may still be contagious after treatment or wart removal. Warts will not turn into cancer if left untreated. Without treatment they can go away on their own, grow in number or size, or not change.
The disease is not spread by sharing towels, a bathroom, kissing, hugging, toilet seats, cutlery, plates or cups.
Warts are caused by a common virus called human papilloma viruses (HPV), of which there are more than a hundred types. 30 of these types can live around the anal and genital areas. Of these, more than forty types infect the genital tract, including the anus and surrounding areas of both men and women. The most common HPV types that cause genital warts are HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18. HPV-6 and HPV-11 are "low-risk" HPV types and they are most commonly linked to benign (not cancerous) lesions. However, HPV-16 and HPV-18 are "high-risk" HPV types that are associated with most cancers that affect the cervix, penis, and anogenital areas.
Warts usually spread by sexual transmission during anal and vaginal sex and the risk of infection increases with the number of sexual partners.They are spread by skin to skin contact, so it isn't necessary for penetration to take place.
In very rare cases, warts can spread from a hand to the genitals.
Symptoms of genital warts are varied:
Visible warts indicate active infection. However, HPV may spread even if the warts are not visible. Depending on their location, genital warts can cause pain and bleeding during intercourse. Warts can also spread to the mouth and throat after having oral sex or to the anal region after having anal sex with an infected person.
Symptoms usually appear two to three months after infection, and these may last from three weeks to many years. About 90% of infected people do not develop visible warts or even know that they are a carrier of the virus.
Treatment only removes any visible warts, it does not remove the virus. It also does not prevent the possibility of spreading the virus to a partner. Therapies are not always successful in bringing long term relief from the warts.
A doctor can usually diagnose the disease after a complete medical history and physical examination. However, the doctor may take a biopsy for confirmation. Women may need a Pap test and an HPV test for high-risk types of the virus.
There is not blood test for the disease.
There is no cure for HPV infection, but genital warts may be removed. A healthy immune system is thought to be able to fight toff HPV. Still, genital warts can recur and HPV can still be transmitted.
Here are some ways to remove genital warts:
Note that some creams can weaken condoms, so ask your Doctor.
Warts frequently return 3 months after treatment. Treatment does not reduce the risk of passing on HPV since it is not understood how long the HPV virus remains contagious after wart removal.
Several things might happen if left untreated:
The time it takes for genital warts to disappear varies by person. In some people multiple treatments may be needed. Non-smokers tend to respond better than smokers.
Return visits to the Doctor can confirm is the warts are gone or if a different treatment method is needed.
Partners can resume having sex after the warts have cleared. This helps any treated areas heal by avoiding rubbing from skin contact. Condom use over treated areas can help to spread the disease.
Even with wart removal, the area can remain contagious.
The risk is low that a pregnant woman would pass on the disease to a baby. In very rare instances, a baby can develop warts in the voice box or throat. Spreading HPV to the baby is not prevented with a Cesarean birth.
Warts do not effect fertility.
While condoms cannot prevent the spread of the disease, it does lower the risk of spreading it from person to person. The reason it is not 100% is that the wart may be in an area outside of the condom. The risk of contracting genital warts can be improved by:
The vaccine Gardasil protects against HPV 11 and 6 (genital warts) and HPV 18 and 16 (the types that can lead to cancer). Young girls are frequently vaccinated.
WebMD. Genital Warts (Human Papillomavirus) - Topic Overview. http://www.webmd.com/sexual-conditions/hpv-genital-warts/tc/genital-warts-human-papillomavirus-topic-overview
Stöppler, M. Genital Warts (HPV) in Women. MedicineNet.com.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and prevention will answer questions over the phone at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636).