Genital warts are a sexually-transmitted disease that is caused by a certain type of human papillomavirus (HPV). The condition is marked by a soft growth on the genital areas and around the anus, causing itching, pain and discomfort. Although the condition affects both men and women, women are more prone to complications such as cancer of the vulva and cervix. While genital warts can be treated, they reoccur if the underlying infection is not treated.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Genital Warts
Genital warts may appear after several weeks of infection, usually after six weeks to six months. The smaller warts are not clearly visible to the eye. These soft-to-touch growths appear like a cauliflower at the top. The person can have only one wart or a cluster of warts at a time.
In males, genital warts can appear on the following areas:
- Inside or around the anus
In females, genital warts can appear on the following areas:
- Outside of the vagina or anus
- Inside of the vagina or anus
Certain types of HPV can also affect the mouth, lips, tongue, or throat if the person has had a sexual contact with an infected person.
Some of the common symptoms of genital warts are:
- Vaginal discharge
If the condition becomes severe, it may also cause immense pain.
What Causes Genital Warts?
Genital warts is caused by the HPV virus, which is commonly transmitted through sex. It can also spread from the genitals to other parts of the body and vice versa.
Genital warts can transmit between people by skin to skin contact. Therefore, it can even spread if you are having non-penetrative vaginal or anal sex. Although it is quite rare, the warts can also appear in the throat, mouth or on the lips from oral sex and since warts sometimes cannot be seen by the human eye, it is particularly important to be careful with whom you choose to have sexual contact with. The infection may have a long incubation period where months can pass between the time a person is infected with the virus and the time he actually notices warts in his genital area. Sometimes, the warts can even take years to develop. It is therefore necessary to take proper precautions before getting involved with a person physically.
How are Genital Warts Diagnosed?
Your doctor may perform a physical examination to diagnose genital warts. In women, pelvic examinations may also be performed, as warts can manifest inside the body as well. A mild acidic solution is used by the doctor to see the warts clearly. Your physician may also perform a pap smear, in which a swab of the area is taken to obtain cells from the cervix. This is done to test the presence of the HPV virus. He may also discuss with you your sexual history to know if you have an unprotected sex in the past.
Treatments for Genital Warts
Genital warts are very contagious; any infected person can catch or spread them easily. Genital warts can spread through vaginal, oral or anal sex. It usually takes about 3 months since time of contact with an infected person to develop genital warts. The infection can also transmit from the genital areas to the area around the anus even if you don’t have anal sex. While the genital warts that are visible to the naked eye often go away on their own. if the virus gets into your bloodstream, it is difficult to treat the condition. In this case, you may have several outbreaks throughout your life. It is difficult to eliminate the virus completely, but its symptoms can definitely be managed to prevent its spreading. Some of the topical wart treatments that your doctor may prescribe you are trichloroacetic acid (TCA), imiquimod (Aldara) and podophyllin and podofilox (Condylox).
If the warts that are visible do not disappear on their own, your doctor may perform a surgery to remove them. Your warts can be removed through laser treatments, interferon injections, excision, cryosurgery or electrocautery. Being open about your condition with your partner can further help you protect them from getting the infection and its resulting warts. A number of HPV vaccines can also be given to reduce the risk of contracting genital warts. Certain types of HPV are also known to cause cervical and vulva cancer and, therefore, women are required to have pap smears periodically to detect any changes in the cervix.
5 Tips on Living with Genital Warts
While you cannot remove the virus, you can definitely reduce outbreaks by adopting positive lifestyle changes. Following are 5 tips on living with Genital Warts:
1) Stress Reduction: Increased stress can interfere with the activity of your immune system. So remain as happy and stress-free as possible.
2) Good Nutrition: Consume a healthy diet to minimize the risk of outbreak. Foods containing arganine such as caffeine, seeds, cheese and nuts can trigger HPV and, therefore, consuming them in moderation is advised.
3) Green Tea: Green tea contains antioxidant properties that help clear up warts.
4) Reishi Mushrooms: Reishi mushrooms are also known to support your immune system and fight viruses.
5) Use Condoms: Condoms can help prevent STDs, including genital warts. Be sure to have condoms handy at all times to prevent risk of spreading or contracting this disease. However, keep in mind that they do not protect one against genital warts 100%.
Alternative Treatments for Genital Warts
Outbreaks of genital warts can be controlled by alternative treatment options like homeopathy, acupuncture therapy, and home remedies. However, one must not try any home remedies without consulting a doctor, as you could potentially cause more harm to yourself than good. Condoms may lower the risk of virus infection, but they are not 100% safe. This is because condoms do not cover the entire genital area and your partner may contract the infection from the skin that is uncovered, as it is caused by skin-to-skin contact. Genital warts can also be spread through both heterosexual and homosexual contact.