What Are Genital Warts?
360,000 people in the USA develop genital warts every year. It’s spread easily with skin to skin contact, usually during sex, and is one of the more common STDs. There are treatments for your genital wart symptoms, but unless you treat the underlying virus they will come back eventually. To learn more about genital warts and what your options are, read on.
Genital warts are growths of skin that you’ll find on the genital area and around the anus, in some cases. The human papilloma virus, or HPV, is the underlying cause of these growths. There are 100 different kinds of HPV. Some types produce warts on different parts of the body, such as the hands and feet. Some can even cause different kinds of cancer. You’ll find that most genital warts are caused by HPV type 6 and type 11. Genital warts are common all over the world, with up to 1 million people getting them every year.
Genital warts aren’t usually considered dangerous. However, they look unsightly and they have a risk of bleeding. Because of this, they can increase your risk of contracting more serious conditions, like HIV. This is why you should always get checked over and find suitable treatment for your warts. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, and all healthcare practitioners are used to seeing this kind of thing.
Symptoms Of Genital Warts
Genital warts have some telltale symptoms. You may get itchy bumps on the surface of the skin around and inside of the genital area. In some cases, they will cluster. They can be all different sizes, and range from hard to soft. That being said, you may just have one wart. This is why it can be tricky to diagnose them yourself. Other symptoms include burning and bleeding in the area. They aren’t usually painful, but they may become painful if they enlarge and aren’t treated. It’s less common to have them in your mouth and throat, but they can also appear here. It’s most common for these growths to appear 6 weeks to 6 months after contracting the infection, but in some cases they can take longer to appear.
You must bear in mind that not all fleshy growths in the area are necessarily genital warts. In some cases they may be skin tags, hemorrhoids, or skin cancer. This is why it’s so important to get checked rather than diagnosing yourself. You may find genital warts in these areas:
- Inside the vagina
- Outside the vagina
In some cases, they aren’t visible on the body and are inside of the body. Seeing a healthcare practitioner for a checkup is crucial if you suspect you have them but can’t see anything. Just because you don’t have any symptoms, doesn’t mean you don’t have the virus.
Where To Get Checked
Getting checked over for genital warts will confirm whether you have the virus or not. Women can be diagnosed with warts during a pelvic exam, but men don’t usually get checked out unless they complain of symptoms. You will be diagnosed after having a physical examination by your nurse or doctor. Warts can grow inside of the vagina and cervix for women, so a more thorough examination may be needed. Questions will be asked about your sexual health history, and it’s important that you are honest to get the best treatment.
Treatment For Genital Warts
In some cases, our bodies will fight off the virus and the warts will go away without treatment. This is why many people decide to leave them alone and hope they go away. That being said, the virus itself will not go away. Just because the warts aren’t there doesn’t mean the virus has disappeared. The body will usually get rid of the virus itself after some time, but there is no treatment for it. You can only cure the visible signs of the virus.
Some people are conscious of the way the warts look, or find them uncomfortable. There are a number of genital wart treatments that might be right for you. There are topical medicines that can be applied to the warts, however, treatment may need to be applied by your healthcare provider. Your warts may be burned, freezed, or lasered off. There are also injections that can help. It isn’t unusual for healthcare practitioners to use more than one treatment at a time in fighting the warts. A woman with genital warts may need a pap smear every 6 months to ensure that there are no cancerous cells or precancerous changes in the cervix.
As the virus itself can’t be eliminated once it’s in your bloodstream, managing symptoms properly is important. You’ll likely have numerous outbreaks throughout your life. You can pass genital warts on even when they aren’t visible on you.
Never attempt to use home remedies on your genital warts. They can do more harm than good. Over the counter remedies can also hinder rather than help. Abstaining from sex is important too. You will heal faster and avoid passing the warts on to somebody else. Taking painkillers after treatment and having warm baths can help to prevent discomfort. Here’s more about genital wart treatment:
There are a number of topical treatments that can work. However, if you’re using condoms, your topical treatment may weaken them. Make sure you know the risks by discussing them with your healthcare provider.
- Podophyllotoxin – this kind of treatment shouldn’t be used during pregnancy. A small amount of liquid is used on the warts, having a toxic effect on them. It is mostly used to treat small clusters of warts. It can take up to 5 treatment cycles for this to work fully.
- Imiquimod – this treatment is used for larger warts. It can take weeks to notice a difference in your warts, as the treatment encourages the immune system to attack them. You won’t use this if you’re pregnant.
- Trichloroacetic acid – this treatment will be applied by a doctor or nurse. It’s used on hard, small warts. You may experience burning.
These treatments are performed by a trained doctor or nurse. They include:
- Cryotherapy – this treatment freezes the wart using liquid nitrogen. You may feel a burning sensation, and it can take up to 3 weeks to heal from it. You should avoid having sex until the site of the wart has healed.
- Excision – hard warts may need to be cut away with a surgical scalpel. Incisions may need to be stitched up. This may not be suitable for large warts, as scarring can occur. Again, it’s best to avoid sex until you have healed.
- Electrosurgery – this is to treat warts that may not have responded to topical treatments. It can be quite painful, so you’ll usually be given pain relief in the form of an anesthetic. Electric currents are used on the warts to burn away what’s left.
- Laser surgery – laser surgery is recommended for warts that haven’t been responding to other treatments. It can be irritating, and take up to 4 weeks to heal. You will be given a general or local anesthetic.
For all treatments, it’s a good idea to abstain from all kinds of sex until you have fully healed. You’ll help your recovery, feel more comfortable, and won’t pass the infection onto others. For 3 months after your warts have cleared, you should still use a condom during intercourse. This is because there may still be traces of the virus in your cells. Bear in mind that as these treatments cannot treat the underlying HPV, there’s still a chance of the warts recurring. Always follow your healthcare practitioners aftercare advice.
How The Warts Are Spread
Genital warts are spread very easily with skin to skin contact. They are most commonly spread when engaging in sexual activity. Luckily, there are prevention methods that can limit your risk of getting the virus that causes them. Some prevention methods include:
- Getting the HPV vaccine.
- Always using condoms.
- Giving up cigarettes. Smokers are more likely to get the virus and experience recurring warts.
Any sexually active person can get HPV. However, studies show that some people are more at risk than others. These risk factors include:
- A history of child abuse.
- A mother with the infection during childbirth.
- Those with immune system weaknesses.
- Being under the age of 30.
If you have a partner, being open and honest with them about your condition is important. When you’re honest and you know as much as possible about your condition, you can help prevent your partner from getting the virus.
Being sure you have these warts is important to get the right treatments. This is why diagnosing yourself is not recommended, and going for a checkup is best. You’ll be able to have your warts treated properly and avoid passing them on. They could be skin tags, or in rare cases, a form of cancer. The only way to know for sure is getting tested by a medical professional.