What are genital warts?
Warts are small, fleshy, soft growths that can be seen anywhere on the body The ones that grow on the genital or anal region are known as genital warts. One of the most common symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases, genital warts are usually caused by a group of viruses called Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Though more common in the moist areas of the genital region, these warts may also, occur on the mouth or throat.
Modes of transmission:
- Sexual intercourse, usually through unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal exposure with an infected individual
- Exposure to multiple partners or being sexually active at a very young age increases the risk
- Direct skin contact with the infected body fluids or warts.
- The immuno-compromised individuals are at a higher risk eg HIV patients not on regular ART, patients on chemotherapeutic drugs, people with untreated chronic diseases like diabetes, etc
- Other modes of transmission include mother-to-child transmission during childbirth
Genital warts Symptoms:
These warts may be single or multiple; small, flat eruptions or big, cauliflower-like swelling on the genitals mainly the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. Warts may also, develop on the mouth, throat, lips, or tongue after oral exposure to an infected person.
Other symptoms associated with warts may include itching, pain, burning of the affected area, or bleeding during intercourse. Usually, warts may take up to 6 months to develop after exposure to the infection, and thus, most patients are asymptomatic carriers of the disease.
Genital warts Diagnosis:
Physical examination and medical history are usually enough to diagnose genital warts. A doctor may also advise blood tests, tissue biopsy, Pap smear, anoscopy (examination of the anal region with the help of an instrument), or colposcopy (examination of the vagina, vulva, or cervix by means of a colposcope) for assessment of or confirmation of diagnosis.
Genital warts Treatment:
- Imiquimod, podophyllin, and trichloroacetic acid (TCA) are the most commonly prescribed medicines for topical application (for applying on warts and surrounding skin)
- Electrocautery or burning of warts
- Cryotherapy or freezing of warts
- Excision of warts (minor surgery)
- Injecting interferon
Some small warts may fall off on their own in due course of time. However, medications may be prescribed to ease or fasten the recovery process or soothe the associated symptoms.
Genital warts are caused by low-risk strains of HPV and almost never turn cancerous. People usually seek treatment if the warts are numerous or for cosmetic reasons.
The high-risk strains of HPV that may lead to cancer almost never cause genital warts.
Hence, if one is sexually active, they must not rely on symptoms and take routine tests to rule out sexually transmitted infections or diseases, STIs or STDs
Prevention of Genital warts:
- Practicing safe intercourse is most important to avoid getting warts.
- Use a condom/ dental dam during every intimate act.
- Avoid having multiple partners.
- Getting tested for STIs before getting into a new relationship.
- Delaying initiation of sexual life preferably to twenties.
- HPV vaccine offers protection against the cancer-causing strains of HPV. These are not the strains that cause genital warts