WHAT IS IT
Genital warts is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. One study suggests that nearly 40 percent of college-age women have these warts on the cervix. These growths appear on, in, and around the genitals anywhere from one to eight months after a person has been infected by the human papilloma virus (HPV).
The virus is highly contagious, spreading by sexual or other intimate bodily contact, and a person can be infected with the virus and spread it even though no warts are visible. HPV occurs among all ages and all classes, though it is most prevalent among young people and the poor.
The warts are benign, but HPV is believed to be a precursor of genital cancers, notably of the cervix and possibly the penis. Most women with cervical cancer are infected with HPV, but only a relatively small proportion of HPV-infected women eventually develop a related cancer. Of the more than 70 types of HPV that have been identified, only two or three are known to be linked to cancer.
- Local irritation and itching, followed by soft, flat, irregularly surfaced growths that appear around the anus, on the cervix, inside the vagina, on the shaft and tip of the penis, or in the urethra, as well as in the mouth and throat. The warts may increase in size and number.
- Warts may also be barely visible, small, flat elevations of skin that otherwise cause no symptoms.
- Some warts are so small they cannot be seen by the naked eye.
What causes it
HPV is the same virus that causes warts on the hands, feet, and face. Genital warts, however, are passed from person to person through sexual activity, and they spread more easily than other types of warts. Scientists attribute the increase in genital wart cases in part to changes in sexual behavior (namely, sexual activity- starting at an earlier age and/ or with multiple partners) in recent decades.
What will happen you do nothing
The warts themselves are benign, and if left uncured, they may vanish on their own. They are more probable to grow bigger and numerous, and treatment is required to avoid more growth and reinfection.
Drugstore remedies for most warts are useless and may be harmful. Such remedies should never be used with genital warts. It’s generally recommended that genital warts be removed surgically or chemically as soon as possible. However, the virus may remain dormant for years, so the warts can be hard to eradicate. Even after warts have been removed, an infected person may still be able to transmit the virus, and the warts often recur.
A part from abstinence, the most reliable preventive is long-term monogamy with a monogamous partner. If you’re healthy and have a long-term monogamous relationship with a healthy partner, you’re at no risk. But if you have not had a long-standing monogamous relationship, always take the following measures.
Check your partner
If you notice any wart like bumps on or around the genitals of a lover, ask that he or she seek medical attention.
Use a condom
Always use a latex condom, even though it may not offer complete protection against genital warts.
Women should get Pap tests
Early identification of HPV is important in identifying women at high risk for cervical cancer. Once diagnosed with HPV infection, a woman must have annual Pap smears (for the early detection of cervical cancer) as recommended for the rest of her life. Avoiding sexually transmitted disease is also important.
Make sure your partner is examined and treated
It’s important that both partners in a sexual relationship receive care if one of them has genital warts. If both partners are infected but only one is treated, then reinfection may occur (unless condoms are always used).