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Genital Warts – Risk Factors and Treatment

News

27.04.2022

Genital warts are fleshy growths that appear on or around the genital area and are an infection caused by certain strains of HPV. This is human papillomavirus, which is the most common of all sexually transmitted infections.

All sexually active men and women are at risk of HPV complications, including genital warts. The infection is very dangerous, especially for women, because some types of HPV cause cervical or vulvar cancer.

Where do genital warts most commonly appear?

Genital warts are transmitted through sexual contact, including not only vaginal but also oral and anal sex. They may appear after 2-3 weeks or up to several months after infection. They are not always noticeable due to their miniature size; their color merges with that of the skin, and may be darker than it. Their top looks like cauliflower and their surface feels smooth or slightly rough to the touch. They appear as a single wart or a cluster of many warts in one place.

Genital warts in men usually occur in these areas:

  • penis;
  • thighs;
  • scrotum;
  • around or in the anus;
  • inguinal folds.

In women, the most commonly affected areas are:

  • anus or vagina;
  • cervix;
  • thighs and inguinal folds;
  • labia.

They also occur on the lips, oral mucosa, throat or tongue in a person who has had oral sex with an HPV infected person.

Even if they are not visible, genital warts can have symptoms such as itching, burning, vaginal discharge, bleeding. If they increase or spread a lot, they cause discomfort and pain.

What factors increase the risk of genital warts?

The risk of genital warts increases in the presence of factors such as:

  • Decreased immunity due to long-term antibiotic treatment, poor nutrition, various chronic diseases, stressful experiences;
  • Pregnancy and postpartum period;
  • Intimate contacts without the use of condoms;
  • Sexual contact with people infected with condyloma;
  • Poor intimate hygiene;
  • Smoking.

Although the human papillomavirus is mostly sexually transmitted, many scientists do not completely rule out the possibility of its transmission through using, for example, common towels. Infection is also possible during birth when the baby passes through the birth canal.

What treatment is applied for genital warts?

To diagnose genital warts, your doctor will perform a physical examination of any areas where it is suspected that warts may be occurring. They will also need answers to questions about your health and sexual history. Especially in women, a gynecological examination and a test is ordered to determine the type of HPV strain in case of a suspected infection.

When genital warts are visible, they may be treated by being removed, but HPV may remain in the skin cells.

To avoid transmission of the virus, it is very important that warts be treated if there relevant symptoms. The doctor decides what local treatment to prescribe and whether to remove the warts through procedures such as:

  • Electrocoagulation or bloodless removal with electric current;
  • Cryotherapy or removal with liquid nitrogen;
  • Laser removal;
  • Surgical excision;
  • Antiviral ointments.

It is not yet possible to completely eliminate HPV and it usually recurs in 40-80% of cases. Removing growths and taking antiviral medications can only reduce the activity of the virus. Taking immunostimulants to increase the body’s defenses is practiced as a final stage of the treatment.

Although two vaccines can be administered against HPV, not all experts are convinced of their effectiveness, which lasts about 8 years and allows protection only from strains 16 and 18, but up to 30% of uterine cancer, for example, is caused by other strains. Following specific therapy, it is possible to achieve the disappearance of genital warts, but treatment is crucial to prevent their recurrence and possible complications. It is also important that you approach your sexual contacts responsibly and, if you are infected, that you protect your partner from infection.

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