Genital warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) and are one of the most common types of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Genital warts are small or large growths on the skin and mucus membranes on genital areas which feel soft to the tough. They may be located on any part of the genitals including the vagina, vulva, cervix, anus, penis, or urethra. Some genital warts are in obvious places and easy to spot while others are on the urethra or cervix and not obviously known unless a physical exam is done.
Causes of Genital Warts
Genital warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV has more than 70 million types, though only a selected few will cause genital warts. However some of the more serious types of HPV can cause cancerous changes such as anal cancer and cervical cancer, which are known as high risk types of HPV. Sexual contact is the main way that genital warts are spread, such as oral sex or sexual intercourse. Risk factors include anyone who has unprotected sex, who has multiple sex partners, someone who begins having sex at a young age, someone using tobacco or alcohol, has a viral infection, a weak immune system, or is pregnant.
Symptoms of Genital Warts
Many times, there are no symptoms of genital warts present and someone doesn’t know they have them until they get a physical examination. However there are signs of genital warts, such as viewing the warts themselves. They will look like a raised or flat spot that are flesh-colored with growths similar to cauliflower. The warts can also spread to other areas such as the thighs, buttocks, anus, mouth, lips, scrotum, tongue, or throat. Additional symptoms of genital warts include itching, bleeding, dampness near the genital wart site, and increased vaginal discharge in women.
Diagnosing Genital Warts
To diagnose genital warts, doctors will begin with a physical examination. However with women, they may not be noticeable until she gets a pelvic exam. Other tests for genital wart diagnosis include a HPV DNA test to see if you have a high-risk type of HPV or a colonoscopy to be able to view them more closely.
Treating Genital Warts
There are no home treatments available for genital warts. Doctors will remove the genital warts and give you a topical cream to apply to them several times a week if surgery did not remove them completely. This also helps to prevent re-growth of the warts.