Genital warts are more common than they should be. In fact, many people do not know what they are and how they are transmitted. They are tiny, lumpy growths that break out in the genital area. The warts are caused by the human papillomavirus or HPV. Warts affect each person differently. Some people have painful outbreaks while others have no pain. Also, the name is really a misnomer because HPV is not one virus. Rather, it is a combination of more than a hundred viruses that affect different body parts. Indeed, most genital warts are caused by two strands of HPV.
HPV and Cancer
Scientists have been aware of a connection between HPV and cervical cancer for over 20 years. The strands of HPV that cause cancer are different from those that cause warts. That is why it is important to have regular PAP smears. Amazingly, 99 percent of all cervical cancers are caused by HPV virus. Likewise, HPV can cause cancer in other genital areas.
How Warts Spread
Genital warts are sexually transmitted. However, actual penetration does not have to occur because the virus spreads by touch. The strange thing is that the virus can be in someone's body and lay dormant for years. People who suspect they have genital warts should see a doctor right away. What are genital warts symptoms? Symptoms include:
tiny, clear bumps in the genital area
clusters of warts
itching and tingling in the genital area
Normally, do genital warts go away?
Unfortunately, they may respond to a form of treatment and reappear later. Warts can always return as long as the virus hides in the body. HPV virus may also cause warts in the anal area. These warts are a breeding ground for cancer cells if they are not treated. Access is a problem in this area so topical treatments are preferred. Extensive and reoccurring anal warts may require surgery.
There are a variety of treatments for genital wart removal. Physicians prefer to try topical treatments first. Podophyllotoxin liquid involves cycles of treatment. The medicine is applied twice a day for three days in the first cycle. Patients rest for four days and repeat the application. Most patients must have four or five cycles. Imiquimod cream may be used for larger warts. This medicine forces the immune system to attack warts. Patients are advised to use the cream three times a week. Further, it may take several weeks of treatment to reduce the warts.
Aggressive treatment may be required for warts that are painful or hard. Also, small hardened warts may respond to trichloroacetic acid. This medication kills certain proteins inside the wart's cell. It can damage surrounding tissue so a visit to the doctor's office is required for treatment.
Cryotherapy is more aggressive wart treatment. It involves freezing warts with liquid nitrogen. Further, it is recommended for individual warts rather than clusters. On the other hand, physicians may cut warts away in a process called excision. This method is used for hard warts and clusters. Laser surgery is recommended for warts that grow in hard to reach areas, like inside the urethra. The patient is given a local anesthetic and the laser burns away the warts.
Advantages of Topical Treatment
Cryotherapy and more aggressive genital wart removal treatments are expensive. Insurance may cover the treatment, but there are still deductibles and co-pays. Further, there are questions about whether the therapy is worth it. They often fail to prevent warts from coming back. Research shows that topical treatment is preferable for genital warts. Many people prefer topical treatments because they think it is more private. They may be embarrassed and want to limit contact with medical personnel.
Some people prefer to use natural remedies. The acid in apple cider vinegar may help remove genital warts. Place the vinegar on gauze and tape it in place. Leave it there for several hours and repeat the procedure. Additionally, onion juice can be used in the same way. Other home remedies for genital warts include garlic, fig juice, and oatmeal baths.
The best way to prevent genital warts is to avoid sexual contact. Remember, people may not be aware they have warts. Likewise, condoms lower the risk but are not 100 percent effective. There is hope for the future in the form of two vaccines: gardasil and cervarix. The vaccines protect against some of the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. They also prevent anal warts. At present, the vaccines are given to females between ages nine and 26. Certain behaviors affects HPV exposure including:
sex with several partners
the age of first sexual contact
having a partner with risky sexual behavior
Genital warts can affect someone for a lifetime. Therefore, one must take a responsible approach to sexual behavior. No one wants to contract a condition that can be controlled.