Genital warts – symptoms and treatment
Genital warts are highly contagious sexually transmitted disease (STD), which is caused by certain types of HPV. Since they are very widespread and it is difficult to control their transmission, it is necessary to know how to fight against them.
Condyloma (genital warts) is a disease caused by the HPV virus, i.e. Human Papilloma Virus. HPV is the cause of cervical cancer in women, so one should start a treatment immediately after the discovery of the virus. HPV has more than 100 variations and not every variation causes the genital warts, but the most widespread species mainly cause them. Only four types of the virus cause cervical cancer and more than 30 cause genital warts.
Transmission of genital warts
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is most often transmitted through sexual intercourse, whether it's a regular sex, whether oral or anal sex. However, warts are transmitted by direct contact with infected skin and mucous membranes.
Genital warts are very easy to get, even if you use a condom for protection. It's almost impossible to be safe from this disease, since your partner can be a transferor of the virus, even without visible symptoms. Only a contact with infected skin or contact with body fluids during sex is necessary to become infected. This is why this disease has become a global epidemic.
This disease is very quickly becoming a sexually transmitted disease No. 1 in the world when it comes to the number of infected people. According to statistics given by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 20 million people in the United States are infected with HPV. The most widespread types of HPV cause genital warts or risk of cervical cancer. It is estimated that about 80% of the sexually active population is infected with some kind of the virus.
Genital warts symptoms
Symptoms of genital warts are usually small pink spots or blisters or one blister (pointy warts), which look like small warts. They may look as red, pink, and white spots on the skin in the genital area, so-called plane warts, which are at the skin level and are manifested by changing the color of the tissue.
Symptoms of HPV infection may not appear for a long time, sometimes for years, but in most cases symptoms occur in the next three months after sexual contact with an infected person.
Warts usually develop from HPV when the body is weakest, as when you are sick or when you have insufficient and poor quality sleep. A healthy diet and training are very important factors in preventing the occurrence of genital warts.
Symptoms of HPV infection are therefore usually more noticeable in men than in women, since warts are more visible on the penis and around the base of the penis, rather than around the vagina.
Women may have no visible symptoms, but if they become infected, there is an increased possibility of cervical cancer, since infection with HPV is necessary precondition for this disease.
Warts occur around the anus (anal opening) in both men and women.
Symptoms of genital warts in men
Men are often just carriers, but when symptoms occur, they are warts on the penis, or a rash on the penis, red, pink spots and dots around the base (root) of the penis, on the skin, the glans, around and inside the anal opening ( anus).
Symptoms of genital warts in women
In women, the symptoms are the same as in men, they only occur much more frequently. Genital warts in women can be found in the form of spots and blisters on the outside in the area of the vagina and inside of the vagina, inside the labia (large and small lips). Small blisters may appear deeper inside the vagina, which is why the Pap smear (Pap test) is necessary for women of all ages in order to avoid possible complications, which can occur if the disease is not treated adequately.
The doctor usually can diagnose visible genital warts, upon review of your medical records (your medical history) and physical examination. The problem is that not all HPV infections cause genital warts. If you do not have any visible warts or other symptoms, it may be more difficult to diagnose. The doctor may ask you the following questions:
- Do you think you have been exposed to HPV or other sexually transmitted diseases? How do you know that? Did your sexual partner tell you that?
- What are your symptoms? If you have a vaginal discharge or a discharge from the penis, it is important to notice and remember the smell or color.
- What type of birth control do you use? Do you use a condom to protect yourself against sexually transmitted diseases?
- Have you had sexually transmitted diseases in the past? How did you treat them?
- Did you do pap smears and what was the result (for women)?
HPV testing for women
Upon review of your medical records, you will undergo a gynecological examination, which usually includes a Pap test.
Pap smear can scan your cervix, which will show the changes, i.e. abnormalities in the cells. The result of Pap test can confirm the presence of HPV, even though there are no visible warts.
Women older than 30 years can do the HPV test at the same time as Pap test. HPV test scans the tissue sample in search of genetic information (DNA) of the virus. Women who are younger than 30 years are recommended to do HPV test only if the results of the Pap test is require that.
If the existence of changes in the cervix (which may be a consequence of HPV infection) is discovered, the doctor shall recommend the appropriate therapy.
HPV Testing For Men
Also after review of the medical records, you will undergo a physical examination to determine the presence of genital warts.
There is no HPV test for men. Although there are no formal guidelines, some experts believe that men who engaged in anal sex should routinely do anal Pap test, especially if you have the HIV virus.
For both sexes
If the warts are present, you may be diagnosed without further testing.
When your doctor determines changes in the tissue, but is not able to make a diagnosis, your doctor may suggest doing a biopsy of tissue that has changes on it. Typization of HPV, i.e. testing for the sake of determining what type of HPV virus is in question is not useful for making a diagnosis and this test is not routinely performed.
The treatment of genital warts
The treatment of genital warts, which actually involves the removal of genital warts, is done quite successfully, but there is no medicine that will forever remove the HPV virus from the body. In most cases, the body eventually cleanses itself of virus. Although the virus that causes genital warts cannot be removed unless the organism itself eventually deals with it, the removal of genital warts is quite easy and there are several methods:
- Removal of genital warts with radio waves (radiosurgery)
- Cryotherapy (freezing)
- Electrocautery (burning warts, electrocoagulation, ECT genital warts)
- Liquid preparations based on podophyllin
- Aldara Cream, e.g. imiquimod (in our Pharmacy NO prescription is needed)
- Injection of interferon, which creates immunity to the virus in genital warts
- Laser removal of genital warts
- Surgical removal of genital warts (removal of genital warts by surgical procedure)