Updated: Aug 2, 2021
What are genital warts?
Genital warts are small growths that develop around the genitals or anus. They are also known as venereal warts, or condylomata acuminata. The warts form separately or in clusters. They may be small, at 5 mm or less, though in some cases they develop into large masses.
The warts are usually skin coloured or somewhat darker. Genital warts develop on the skin and mucous membranes in the genital or anal area. In males, this includes the penis, scrotum, and anus. In females, this includes the vulva, the internal surface of the vagina, the cervix, and the anus. Genital warts are not usually painful, but they can cause itching, redness, or discomfort, and they may bleed.
HPV infection does not always cause symptoms some people have the infection without developing warts. For this reason, it may be impossible to tell whether a person has HPV. If the warts do appear, it may be 3 weeks, several months, or even years after the person has developed the infection. Genital warts are benign, or noncancerous. Genital warts are one of the most common types of sexually transmitted infections. Nearly all sexually active people will become infected with at least one type of human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes genital warts, at some point during their lives. Genital warts affect the moist tissues of the genital area.
They can look like small, flesh-colored bumps or have a cauliflower-like appearance. In many cases, the warts are too small to be visible. Some strains of genital HPV can cause genital warts, while others can cause cancer. Vaccines can help protect against certain strains of genital HPV.
How are genital warts passed on?
Genital warts can be passed on through skin-to-skin intimate contact with someone who has the wart virus or through sharing sex toys. The virus can remain in the body and be passed on before warts become noticeable or after they have disappeared. It is rare but possible for warts to be transmitted through oral sex or when giving birth.
You cannot catch warts through sharing cutlery, toilet seats, towels, swimming pools, baths, cups and plates. How are genital warts diagnosed?
Warts are usually easily diagnosed by a Doctor or Nurse upon inspection of the skin. If the diagnosis is uncertain, a biopsy or swab may need to be taken.
What are the symptoms?
In men, they may occur on the tip or shaft of the penis, the scrotum, or the anus.
In women, genital warts can grow on the vulva, the walls of the vagina, the area between the external genitals and the anus, the anal canal, and the cervix.
Genital warts can also develop in the mouth or throat of a person who has had oral sexual contact with an infected person. The signs and symptoms of genital warts include:
Small, flesh-colored, brown or pink swellings in your genital area
A cauliflower-like shape caused by several warts close together
Itching or discomfort in your genital area
Bleeding with intercourse
Genital warts can be so small and flat as to be invisible. Rarely, however, genital warts can multiply into large clusters, in someone with a suppressed immune system (such as HIV patient)
What are the causes and risk factors?
The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes warts. There are more than 40 strains of HPV that affect the genital area. Genital warts are almost always spread through sexual contact. Your warts don't have to be visible for you to spread the infection to your sexual partner.Most people who are sexually active get infected with genital HPV at some time. Factors that can increase your risk of becoming infected include:
Having unprotected sex with multiple partners
Having had another sexually transmitted infection
Having sex with a partner whose sexual history you don't know
Becoming sexually active at a young age
Having a compromised immune system, such as from HIV or drugs from an organ transplant
What are the Complications?
HPV infection complications can include Cancer. Cervical cancer has been closely linked with genital HPV infection. Certain types of HPV also are associated with cancers of the vulva, anus, penis, and mouth and throat. HPV infection doesn't always lead to cancer, but it's important for women to have regular Pap tests, particularly those who've been infected with higher risk types of HPV.
Is there a Prevention?
Yes there is.Limiting your number of sexual partners and being vaccinated will help prevent you from getting genital warts. Using a condom every time you have sex is a good idea, but won't necessarily protect you from genital warts. Vaccination is also recommended.
Three HPV vaccines have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The most recent, Gardasil 9 is approved for use in males and females ages 9 to 45 to protect against cervical cancer and genital warts.
The CDC now recommends that young adolescent from 9 years old to 14 years old to receive two doses of HPV vaccine at least six months apart. Teens and young adults who begin the vaccine series later, which is 15 years old and above, should continue to receive three doses of the vaccine. There is no issue for anyone at any age to receive HPV vaccine especially those who are contracted with genital warts to further protect them against other strain in the future.
How common are genital warts?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source report that infection with HPV, the virus that causes genital warts, is the most common STI in the U.S. That said, only 10%Trusted Source of people who come into contact with HPV develop genital warts, and many people have HPV infection but no symptoms.
The CDC estimate that 1 in 100 sexually active adults in the U.S. have genital warts at any one time. What are the treatment options?
Treatments can remove genital warts, but they may return. There is no cure for the HPV infection that causes them, but the body may clear the infection over
time. Creams and lotions can eliminate the warts over time, and there are various procedures to remove them. In some cases, the warts grow or multiply without intervention. Also, treating outbreaks of these warts can greatly reduce the risk of transmission.
Please remember not to apply treatments designed to eliminate warts on the hands or feet to their genitals.
Your healthcare provider may use more than one treatment at a time. Treatments for genital warts include:
Topical medication : A person applies a cream or liquid directly to the warts for several days each week for several weeks.
Cryotherapy : A healthcare professional applies liquid nitrogen to the area, causing the warts to freeze, which eventually fall off sometimes after several sessions.
Surgery : The person receives a local anesthetic before a surgeon removes the warts. This conventional or traditional method however has high risk of scar and bleeding during the procedure.
Radio-frequency Removal : This is our method of choice for warts removal. After administering a local anaesthetic cream, a healthcare professional uses an electric current to remove the wart and all lesions can be removed within one session.
The treatments are not painful but may cause soreness or irritation for a few days, and over-the counter pain relief medications can help. The unfortunate part is that there are always risk for the warts to return regardless of the method of removal. However, removing the warts from your body will reduce the risk of the warts spreading to other area and also to your beloved partner.
Learn more about how to remove all the warts in a single session.