Last updated date: 14-Oct-2022
Originally Written in English
Genital Warts: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Genital warts are a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that mainly affected individuals (both male and female) with human papillomavirus (HPV). They are characterized by soft fleshy growths that develop on the genitals or anus. Although they are not usually painful, genital warts can cause discomfort, redness, itchiness, and sometimes bleed.
Genital warts are also referred to as venereal warts or condylomata acuminata. They can either develop in clusters or separately. They are normally skin-colored or somehow dark in color and can affect a small section of the genital or a large part.
Causes of Genital Warts
The most common cause of genital warts is the HPV condition. Normally, there are around 20 to 40 different HPV strains that affect the genital area. However, some of these strains can trigger and cause genital warts.
HPV is a common condition that is usually considered a sexually transmitted infection. This is because it’s highly transmitted via sexual contact with an infected person.
Risk Factors Associated With Genital Warts
All sexually active individuals are at a higher risk of contracting HPV at some point. Some of the factors that might increase the chances of developing the infection include;
- Engaging in unprotected intercourse with more than one partners
- Previous medical history of a different infection
- Having intercourse without inquiring about the sex history of your partner
- A compromised body defense system caused by organ transplant medication or HIV disease
- Being sexually active at a tender age
Nonetheless, genital warts are common among individual who;
- Are below 30 years of age
- Indulge in excessive smoking
- Have a weak or compromised immune system
- Are offspring of a mother who had the disease during child delivery
- Have experienced repeated child abuse
Possible Complications of HPV
Some of the complications associated with HPV infection can include;
- Cervical cancer
Mostly, HPV infection is one of the major causes of cervical cancer. It can sometimes result in precancerous changes in the cervix cells. Some types of HPV are also linked to cancers of the anus, vulva, penis, throat, and mouth.
Although HPV infection does not always result in cancer, it’s essential to go for a regular checkup. This is if you have been infected with high-risk HPVs.
Sometimes, pregnancy can cause warts to enlarge. This makes it hard to urinate and can cause severe pain. The development of genital warts of the wall of the vagina also hinders the normal stretching of the tissues during child delivery. Furthermore, large warts on the vagina or vulva can bleed if they stretch while giving birth.
In rare cases, the child born under such circumstances can develop warts in the throat. A surgical procedure might thus be necessary to prevent the air path from blocking.
Signs and Symptoms of Genital Warts
In the female, genital warts can develop in the vulva, cervix, inner surface of the vagina, or the anus. In the male, it can occur in the anus, penis, or scrotum. In rare cases, warts can form on the throat, tongue, or mouth. This can, however, happen if an individual engages in oral sex with an already infected person.
Some of the commongenital warts symptoms include;
- Small flesh-colored lumps, growth, or swelling around the anus, vagina, or penis
- Discomfort and itchiness around the genital area
- Bleeding during or after intercourse
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Burning sensation in the genitals
Diagnosing Genital Warts
The first diagnostic procedure is the physical examination. This is where the doctor asks questions regarding your overall health state and sexual history. It can also include the signs and symptoms you have and have recently had unprotected intercourse or oral sex. If necessary, the doctor can inspect the genital areas or any part where warts might be developing.
When it comes to women, a pelvic examination might be necessary. This is because warts might be developing deep inside the body. Pelvic examination is usually performed by applying mild acid content to make warts visible.
The doctor can also conduct a Pap test or Pap smear. This is done by swabbing the genital area to remove the cervical cells. The cells are then tested to check if you have an HPV infection.
Some types of HPV can show abnormal results on the test, which can be a sign of precancerous changes. In case the doctor suspects an abnormality, you may be required to undergo regular screening to check the changes. Alternatively, the doctor can ask you to undergo a colposcopy. This is a specialized procedure to closely analyze the vagina, vulva, and cervix for signs of certain related diseases.
Treating Genital Warts
There is no specific cure for the HPV infection, causing genital warts. However, the infection can clear with time. On the other hand, the available genital warts treatment can help remove warts but can recur after some time.
The doctor can administer lotions and cream to help remove warts over time. However, there are several other procedures that can help eliminate them. Therefore, the effective treatment options that can help with the condition can include;
Topical medications can be directly applied to warts for several weak. However, these medications can cause irritation, burning sensation, soreness, pain, and can sometimes make the skin red. They include;
- Podophyllin or podofilox: A plant-based resin that helps kill the tissues of genital warts.
- Imiquimod: This cream helps boost the body's immune system so as to fight the infection or genital warts.
- Sinecatechins: This is used to treat external warts on the genital areas and those that develop around the anal canal.
- Trichloroacetic acid: This is a treatment that burns off warts. It can be used to treat both external and internal warts.
Depending on the appearance of warts, a surgical procedure can be necessary to address the issue. The doctor can recommend genital warts removal via a surgery if;
- The warts are too large
- You are pregnant, and the baby can be exposed to warts during delivery
- Warts fail to respond to various medications
Some of the surgery options include;
This involves freezing genital warts using liquid nitrogen. Freezing causes the blister to appearance around warts. After some time, the lesions begin to shed as a new skin regenerates. To effectively remove warts, you may be required to undergo the same treatment procedure at least twice or thrice.
This involves the use of special equipment to cut off and remove warts surgically. Doctors perform this procedure under local or general anesthesia to prevent you from experiencing pain. However, you may experience minor pain after the surgery.
This approach utilizes electric currents to burn and remove genital warts. Although it’s done under local anesthesia, you can experience severe pain and swelling afterwards.
- Laser treatment
This technique uses a powerful beam of light. Although it’s an expensive treatment, it is effective in addressing widespread and tough genital warts. These are warts that don’t respond to other treatment options.
Although genital warts are treatable and manageable, you can still live a free and healthy lifestyle by preventing the situation. Some of the preventive measures you should consider include;
- Reducing the number of sex partners. This also helps minimize the chances of contracting the disease.
- Using protection like condoms every time you are having sex. Although it’s a good alternative, this approach won’t completely prevent the risk of contracting genital warts.
- HPV vaccination: Getting a vaccine can help prevent you from acquiring certain viruses, including those that trigger genital warts and cervical cancer. The vaccine is recommended for every person at the age of 9 to 45. Furthermore, it’s advisable for teenage boys and girls to get a vaccine before engaging in sexual intercourse.
- You should, however, remember that a person can contract HPV without genital warts. They may not also be aware that they have the infection hence can sexually transmit it to other people.
Preventing Recurring Genital Warts
Sometimes, warts can disappear and recur after weeks, months, or even years. Therefore, after receiving treatment and successfully recovering, you should adhere to the following measure to ensure that the condition doesn’t return;
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and ensuring that your immune system is always healthy. You can achieve this by exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet.
- Avoid smoking as this can increase the chances of contracting the virus.
- Keeping the genital area clean at all time
Genital warts are one of the common sexually transmitted infections that are usually caused by HPV. This virus can be transmitted from one person to another via direct skin to skin contact with an infected person. You can also contract the virus by engaging in vaginal or anal sex with a person who has the virus. In rare cases, the condition can be transmitted through oral sex.
CloudHospital can help you address and manage such a condition. It works with a number of professional healthcare providers who specialize in diagnosing, treating, and preventing HPV and genital warts. Furthermore, they provide various effective treatment options based on the condition.