What Causes Genital Warts?
Genital warts are smooth or rough growths that may be painful or itchy that occur on and around the genitals. Genital warts are caused by strains of HPV. HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection that may lead to certain types of cancer.
HPV is so common because there are so many different types of the virus. The different types have differing severity and differing effects. The majority of sexually active adults will suffer from at least one type of HPV during the course of their life. It's thought that 14 million people end up gaining HPV every year. Keep reading to learn more about genital warts and HPV.
Genital warts are caused by HPV. The HPV infection is transmitted through sexual activity. Genital warts may take a few weeks to develop after infection. Genital warts may be very small and hard to see with the naked eye. The warts may also be the color of the surrounding skin or darker. They may also be pink, red, purple or brown in color. The tops of genital warts may look similar cauliflower. Many people will develop clusters of warts instead of just one wart. Genital warts may appear on the genitals and the surrounding areas. In males, genital warts often appear on the penis, scrotum, thighs, anus, and groin. In females, genital warts often appear on the inside and outside of the vagina and anus. They also may show up on the cervix in females and cause other symptoms such as vaginal discharge, itching, and general discomfort. Some forms of HPV can lead to cervical and vulva cancer. People who have had oral sex with a person who has HPV may develop warts on their mouth, tongue, throat, and lips.
What Causes Warts
Genital warts are most often caused by HPV. There are over 70 known strains of HPV that can cause the genitals to develop warts. HPV is extremely transmittable through direct skin contact. HPV is an extremely common sexually transmitted infection. Many people have the infection at some point in their life and don’t even know about it because not all types will have symptoms such as genital warts. Genital warts are caused by different types of HPV than warts that occur on other areas of your body. Genital warts can affect anyone who has had sexual contact with a person infected with a strain of HPV that causes genital warts.
Increased risks of developing genital warts include:
Have a weakened immune system
Being under the age of 30
Multiple sexual partners
Mother had HPV during childbirth
A doctor will diagnose genital warts through a physical examination. In women, a pelvic examination may be necessary to find warts that are within the body. The doctor may also perform a Pap smear in women to test for HPV that may cause precancerous changes. The doctor will ask about the patient’s overall health. The doctor will also ask about the patient’s sexual history.
There is no cure for HPV, but there are effective treatment options for the symptoms that HPV may cause.
Genital warts often go away on their own with time. The HPV virus does not go away once it is in the bloodstream. A person who is infected with HPV may experience outbreaks of genital warts throughout their life. Genital warts can be transmitted to another person, even when the infected person does not have any visible symptoms. Genital warts can be treated to minimize their appearance and relieve symptoms in a variety of ways including prescription medications, electrocautery, cryosurgery, laser treatments, excision and various other injections. Women who have genital warts should have pap smears every three to six months to monitor changes in the cervix.
There are a few vaccinations on the market that can help to protect men and women from the most common HPV strains which may cause genital warts and HPV strains that may be linked to cervical cancer. The vaccines are most effective when they administered to a person before they are sexually active or have been exposed to HPV. Condoms can also reduce the transmission of the virus, but not entirely because areas of the body are still exposed to the virus.