Genital Warts

Genital Warts are a sexually transmitted condition caused by the presence of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) in one sexual partner. Many partners can carry HPV without ever knowing it as warts do are not always a manifested part of the infection. The variety of types also means a variety of resistance levels to treatment with some more difficult and more serious than others. Amongst men, genital warts are most commonly found between the ages of twenty five and thirty four while with women they are most common in the narrower age bracket of twenty to twenty four.

What are the symptoms?

Genital warts appear in a variety of shapes and size but the most common fall into two groups, with some flat and difficult to distinguish and others more distinguished with stalks to closely resemble a cauliflower. They are not always painful but can often cause itching irritation to the skin. In men, they usually appear on the penis or under the foreskin. They can also be found around the end of the urethra or close to the rectum. Genital warts in women are found around the lips of the vulva, by the urethra or rectum or even within the vagina. Following contact with an infected party, they won’t appear until some time between two to four weeks after and often a longer period of time can pass before they become identifiable.

What can Genital Warts lead to?

In some instances, the spread of genital warts can be linked to cell changes within the uterus and forms of cancer in the sexual organs. This is often the reason behind the recommendation for women with warts in the vagina to have an additional smear test to check for further complications. Some strains are also more resistant to treatment and therefore can require a longer period of often painful treatment. Even after genital warts have been treated, once you have become infected, there will continue to be a risk of the disorder returning at a later stage. While they are mostly spread through sexual intercourse, infection can also be passed on indirectly through the shared use of infected items like towels. The virus can also be found on fingers and mouths which increase the risk of indirect transmission. In pregnant women, any occurrence of genital warts can be passed on to the child during childbirth.

How is it diagnosed?

A qualified doctor should always be consulted for diagnosis. A clinical examination of the genital area is the first step. In instances where the patient may be suffering from the flat, harder to see warts acetic acid is swabbed onto the itchy or burning area. This works by showing up the warts as white patches on the skin and thus making removal easier. Depending on the type and development of the genital warts, you may be referred on to a specialist that deals with skin and sexually transmitted diseases who can remove them. When seeking diagnosis, it is important that any involved partners are tested for the infection.

How can I treat this?

In some cases, genital warts can be treated by swabbing the area with the cell poison podophyllotoxin or condyline. This works by penetrating the tissue of the warts and administering a toxic effect on the nuclei of the wart cell. The only drawback of this method is that patients can suffer some irritation in the area of skin treated. In instances where a patient has bee referred to a specialist the treatment involves the administration of a local anaesthetic. The specialist will then use a laser or liquid nitrogen, a method known as cryotherapy, to destroy and remove any warts. This treatment, while effective can be painful and take a few months to complete. Because of the sensitive nature of the genital area, special types of these removal methods are used as opposed to the more painful methods used for removal of warts from other areas of the body.

Where can I go?

You should try to consult a doctor or family planning clinic advisor before taking further steps. A doctor will make the decision to either treat you or refer you to a Sexually Transmitted Diseases clinic. However, many of these clinics offer their contact details in directories and you can often arrange a direct appointment through them. In addition to this Genito-urinary medicine clinics are on hand to provide appointments, support and treatment for the condition. Additional support is available for younger patients through outreach services in schools and local youth centres.

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