Managing Genital Warts
Genital warts are an extremely contagious type of sexually transmitted disease (STD) and are caused by a type of the human papillomarvirus (HPV). The condition is also sometimes called venereal warts, anogenital warts, acuminate, anal wart or condylomata. The only way to spread the disease is by skin-to-skin contact. Skin-to-skin contact can occur during anal sex, oral sex or genital sex with an infected partner.
There are different types of HPV but most (90 percent) of genital warts cases are caused by types six and 11. Many people can be infected with the virus, but only a small percentage of those who have the virus actually develop warts, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. The McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign says that between one percent and five percent of those infected have the symptom of warts. As many as 80 percent of adult American men and women will become infected with HPV at some point in their lives, according to research conducted by the center. Most will have no symptoms. Even though there are no symptoms, those infected can still spread the virus.
HPV has been connected to causing most anal cancers and cervical cancer. The American Center of Disease Control says that the strain of HPV that causes these types of cancers is different from the strains that cause genital warts.
The warts tend to show up in tiny clusters that sometimes spread into large masses over the genital and anal area. Women tend to have more obvious symptoms with clusters of warts around the open of the uterus (cervix), outside and inside the vagina, and around or inside the anus. Symptoms of warts on men are often less obvious. They tend to appear as clusters on the tip of the penis. Sometimes the warts appear on the scrotum, the shaft of the penis or around and inside the anus.
Sometimes warts can begin to grow in the mouth or throat of a person if they've had oral sex with an HPV carrier, but this is rare.
How Genital Warts Are Spread
HPV and genital warts are spread only through skin-to-skin contact. When contact with infected skin occurs, the viral particles penetrate the skin through microscopic abrasions in the sensitive skin of the genital area. They microscopic painless abrasions can occur during normal, non-violent sexual activity. A person can have their cells invaded by the virus without knowing it. HPV can have a quiet (latency) period of months or years. Sometimes the virus can remain latent for decades which means an individual can be a carrier without showing a single symptom.
Anyone who has unprotected sexual relations with an infected person has a 70 percent chance of becoming infected with the virus. The freshly infected person may or may not eventually show the symptoms of genital warts.
There is no cure HPV but there are treatments for the visible symptoms of the warts. A report published in the peer reviewed journal American Family Physician says that while the symptoms can be treated, there is no indication that removing the visible warts reduces the chance of transmission.
Podofilox tends to be the first treatment offered by most physicians, mostly because it's the least expensive. It's a gel or cream solution that used two times a day for three days followed by four to seven days of no treatment. Podofilox tends to be prescribed for use for four cycles.
Liquid nitrogen cryosurgery basically freezes the warts off and is effective 71 to 79 percent of the time. Trichloroacetic acid is also sometimes used to burn off the warts, but it tends to be less effective than cryosurgery according to the Dermatology Online Journal. It's safe for use during pregnancy.
There are also other cream or ointment treatments like imiquimod and sinecatechins. Fluorouracil cream used to be used but has been pulled for treatment of genital warts in America because of negative side effects.