Genital warts are warts that appear on the genital area. In this article, we go through the causes, symptoms, and common genital warts treatment.
What are genital warts?
Also known as anogenital warts, or condylomata acuminata, they usually appear as raised lesions that develop on the skin. They can be flesh-colored, light and pearly, or darker in color. The most common signs are small, scattered bumps, a cluster of bumps that resemble cauliflower, or growths in the genital area that can be raised or flat and smooth.
They are usually painless, but sometimes they can itch, burn or bleed. In men, these warts can be found on the scrotum, shaft of the penis, or even on the thigh. On women, they may be found on the vulva, in the vagina, and on the cervix. Oral sex can result in warts in or around the mouth, on the tongue and gums, in the mouth.
What are the causes of genital warts?
The warts are caused by some types of human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection that are highly contagious. Anyone who has sex can get HPV, and it is very common. At least half of people who have sex has had an HPV infection, and is most common before the age of 30.
However, not everyone who gets an HPV infection gets genital warts. Most never get these warts because their immune system can fight off the virus. Nonetheless, those with a weakened immune system may not be able to fight the virus, and can develop warts.
Genital warts spread from one individual to another through sex (vaginal, oral, anal), genital contact, or childbirth (mother to child).
Who is at risk of genital warts?
Individuals who have unprotected sex, have multiple partners, or who start having sex at a younger age are at increased risk of being infected with HPV and developing genital warts. It is most common in those under 30 years old.
Genital Warts Treatment
How dermatologists diagnose and treat genital warts?
While some genital warts can clear without treatment, removing the warts can lower the risk of virus spread, helps to relieve pain and itching, or can aid in easier cleaning.
If you want to treat your genital wart, it is best to see an accredited dermatologist. Do not buy an over-the-counter wart treatment that is sold without a prescription, these treat different types of warts.
Topical Genital Warts Treatment:
Often dermatologists will prescribe medications that you can apply yourself at home. These include Podofilox for external warts to stop them from growing, Imiquimod to boost the body’s immune system to fight against HPV or other prescription medicines.
Genital Warts Treatment Procedures:
A skin specialist may perform one of these procedures during a clinic visit:
- Laser treatment (removing the warts with laser light)
- Excision (cutting off the warts)
- Cryosurgery (freezing off the warts with liquid nitrogen)
Treatment can remove the warts that is seen externally, but it may not fully get rid of the virus. If the virus remains, the wart can return. If you still have the virus, you can still spread it through sex. Wearing a condom can prevent the risk of spreading and catching the virus during sex.
Genital Warts Prevention
- HPV Vaccine
There are 2 types of HPV vaccines available. One of them is “quadrivalent”, this means that it can protect against 4 types of HPV. This vaccine can protect against the HPV virus that causes genital warts. This vaccine requires 3 shots to be fully vaccinated. Get all three shots before you first sexual encounter for it to be the most effective.
- Use a condom during sex
Wearing a condom during sex can help reduce the risk of getting genital warts. However, condoms do not cover all the skin in the genital area, hence it is not a full-proof way of protection.
- Be candid and open with your sexual partners
Before having sexual activity with your partner for the first time, talk honestly about sexually transmitted infections (STI), and check whether or not you or your partner has had or has any STIs, including HPV.
Have a genital wart concern? Book a TeleConsultation, with MOH accredited dermatologist, Dr. Teo Wan Lin, to have your condition addressed. Click on bottom left button to contact us or simply click here to book an appointment now.
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