Healthy Living

Genital Warts: Is It an STD?

Genital Warts: Is It an STD?

Key Takeaways

  • Genital warts is the most common STD caused by human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • Genital warts mainly occur due to skin-to-skin contact.
  • The warts can develop in the mouth, throat or on the lips from oral sex.

Genital warts are an STI, also known as a sexually transmitted infection. It is caused by specific strains of HPV, also known as the human papillomavirus. In appearance, genital warts are soft growths that appear in the genital region. These growths on the skin can result in discomfort, pain, and itching. Genital warts are especially dangerous for women due to the fact that certain types of HPV can lead to cancer of the vulva and cervix.

How Genital Warts Are Caused

Genital warts are the most common STD caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). It mainly occurs due to skin-to-skin contact, especially during sexual intercourse. HPV is considered so ordinary that the CDC, or Center for Disease Control, reported that most sexually active people get it at some point or other. It is estimated that around 5.5 million new HPV cases occur every year in the United States. Around 40 million Americans have genital warts.

Not everyone who catches the virus has visible genital warts. However, when they do appear, they will lead to discomfort and itching which will require treatment. Treatment and protection are vital in the prevention of this infection. Genital warts will not always be visible to the naked eye. They may be skin-colored and small or slightly darker. The top of the growths may feel slightly bumpy when touched or smooth. An individual who is infected with genital warts can either have warts that are clustered together or a single wart. If the condition spreads or multiplies, it can be very uncomfortable and even painful. Human papillomavirus is the most prevalent of all STIs. The HPV infection can spread during both oral and vaginal sex. Since the warts are not present all of the time, your partner may transmit the infection to you unknowingly. This means that you may not realize that you are HPV positive even after several years of having sex.

Genital warts can effect both men and women; however, it is likely that women have an increased vulnerability to genital warts. The reason women are more vulnerable to Genital warts is because there are some types of HPV can cause cancer to the cervix or vulva.

Anyone who is sexually active has the risk of getting genital warts. Although genital warts can be treated, they may still carry a tendency to recur unless the underlying infection is also treated.

Transmission

Genital warts can transmit between people by skin-to-skin contact. Therefore, it can spread even if you are not penetrating during vaginal or anal sex. The warts can also appear in the throat, mouth, or on the lips from oral sex; though this is quite rare.

Sometimes, the genital warts are not visible. Therefore, it is particularly important to be careful with whom you decide to become sexually involved with. The infection may have a longer incubation period. This means that months can pass between the time a person is infected with the virus to the time they actually notice warts in the genital area. Sometimes, the warts can even take years to develop. Therefore, it is necessary to take proper precautions before getting involved with a person physically. Condoms may lower the risk of infection but they are not 100% safe. This is because condoms do not cover the entire genital area. Thus, your partner may get the infection from the skin that is uncovered as it is caused by skin-to-skin contact. Genital warts can also spread between both straight and same-sex couples.

Genital warts are very contagious. This means that any infected individual can easily spread the virus to others. It can spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. It usually takes about 3 months to develop genital warts from the time of contact with an infected person. The infection can also transmit from the genital areas to the area around the anus even if you do not have anal sex. The virus most commonly spreads when you are experiencing an outbreak. However, it can still be passed even after the warts disappear. This is why doctors and specialists advise going in for proper treatments where they can actually eliminate the main cause of the spread of infection.

Though it is very rare to have warts on the hand, it is not impossible. If you have had warts on your hand, they can be passed to the genital area and vice versa. Therefore, one must maintain proper personal hygiene to avoid spreading the infection this way. Genital warts are most common for people who regularly smoke, are under the age of 30, and for those with a weak immune system. In some cases, pregnant woman who have genital warts can pass the infection to their baby during delivery. However, genital warts passed to a child during delivery is a rare occurrence.

There is a very negligible risk of getting genital warts from hugging, kissing, sharing towels, toilet seats, pools, or from sharing utensils or cutlery. Despite all this, the best method of prevention is to always be open in sharing the details about the infection with your partner.

Prevention

HPV is the main cause of cancer in the genital organs of women including the cervix and vulva. It can also cause precancerous changes to the cells of the cervix or dysplasia, as well as penile and anal cancer. Since genital wart is an STD, the only way to completely prevent and avoid contracting the infection is abstinence from sexual intercourse.

It is always advisable to be in monogamous relationships or limit the number of sexual partners if you want to avoid contracting HPV. Although genital warts may often disappear over time, the virus cannot be eliminated once it enters your bloodstream which may lead to several outbreaks over the course of the patient’s lifetime. Therefore, treatment or surgery may be required to prevent them from returning. Being open about your condition with your partner can help you further in protecting 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.