Genital warts are one of the most common types of sexually transmitted infections. It occurs when a virus called HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) infects a person. Almost all sexually active people encounter this virus at some time in their lives. While this virus causes genital warts in both men and women, it can also cause cervical cancer in women. Warts affect the moist areas of the genital area. The genital wart can be too small to be seen or seen in larger shapes such as small bumps or sunflowers.
What are genital warts?
It is the name given to warts (verrucosa) caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) in the genital area. HPV infection, the most common infection transmitted by sexual intercourse in the world, is more common in individuals who have their first sexual experience at an early age and have a high number of sexual partners. Genital warts can cause pain, discomfort, and itching. It is especially dangerous for women because some types of HPV can cause cancer of the cervix and vulva.
What is the HPV Virus?
Genital warts seen in both men and women are a symptom of sexually transmitted HPV infection in the genital area. It is also called “condyloma acuminata”. HPV virus (Human papillomavirus) has more than 200 varieties, 40 of which cause genital warts. The most common types of warts are HPV 6 and HPV 11. However, these HPV types do not cause cancer.
Since other HPV types can be found in the body at the same time, tests such as Pap Smear should be done, especially in women. Genital warts are in the form of light or dark brown bumps and sometimes spots on the skin. Multiple warts can appear side by side, like cauliflower as they can be seen individually. Warts are sometimes mistaken for flesh or not at all. They may itch or cause bleeding during sexual intercourse.
It is estimated that 60 percent of women and men will experience HPV at some time in their lives. After the virus enters the body, it is usually suppressed by the immune system. Species that cause genital warts when not suppressed show symptoms approximately 1 year after infection.
Whether the virus causes symptoms or not, it is possible to infect other people because it is in the body. Therefore, it cannot be determined when and from whom the HPV virus was transmitted. The sooner genital warts are diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. Warts are treated with creams according to their size, various burning methods, or surgery.
Genital warts are seen in 1 percent of the population. In the 20s, this rate rises to 7 percent. Even if the cervical cancer vaccine is given, screening programs should continue. The smear should be done every three years on all women from the age of 21.
It is recommended that the Screening Common Test, in which HPV and PAP smear tests are used together, be performed after the age of 30. If both of these results are good, the rate of cervical cancer or pre-cancerous lesion development decreases to 0.88 percent. in five years.
How Is HPV Transmitted?
- The HPV virus can be seen in both genders and is transmitted from person to person through sexual contact. In addition to vaginal and anal intercourse, HPV can also be transmitted by skin contact in the genital area that is not covered with a condom.
- Although genital warts are not visible, contact of HPV-infected skin with the genital area is sufficient for the virus to be transmitted.
- It is rarely transmitted by oral sexual intercourse.
- HPV can remain silent in the body for many years after being infected and does not cause genital warts in everyone. In most people, HPV is inactivated by the body’s defense system.
- Warts can occur several months or years after infection of the HPV types that cause genital warts. During this time, the person becomes a carrier and can infect others.
- It can be passed from mother to baby during delivery in pregnant women with HPV.
- It is not possible to determine which partner genital warts are infected and how long the virus has been in the body.
- Warts can multiply and grow in untreated patients.
- Genital warts are not spread by kissing, using towels, cutlery, glasses, or toiletries.
- Always use a condom during vaginal, anal, or oral sex – however, the virus can also be transmitted through areas of skin that are not protected by a condom.
- Do not have sexual intercourse during the treatment of genital warts.
- HPV vaccine book: The most effective way to protect from HPV; HPV vaccine is intended for both women and men.
- The HPV vaccine, which is used all over the world and made in some countries since childhood, provides protection against the most common cancer-causing HPV types 16 and 18. Also, the tetravalent (tetravalent) vaccine has protection against types 6 and 11 that cause genital warts. It can protect from 90 percent of all cervical cancers and the same rate of warts.
Why do genital warts occur?
Warts occur when a virus called HPV infects a person. There are more than 40 subtypes of HPV that affect the genital area. Only a few of these subspecies cause warts. HPV is a virus spread by contact. The person infected with HPV may not show any symptoms and may transmit this virus to their partner sexually.
The virus disappears spontaneously over time, with most people showing no symptoms. However, it can cause warts in some people. It is sufficient for the person carrying the virus to touch the sexual areas to infect the other party. Since it is a small virus, it can easily enter the body by passing through small abrasions and cracks on the skin.
Symptoms of genital warts
Warts in women usually occur on the lips of the vagina, the area between the anus and the vagina, the anal canal, the walls of the vagina, and the cervix (cervix). In men, it can be observed in the penis, scrotum (scrotum), and anus. Warts in the mouth, tongue, and throat may occur in people who have oral sexual contact with a person infected with HPV.
Vaginal discharge, itching, burning sensation, and bleeding are among the symptoms that are usually seen together with the wart in the genital areas.
Genital Warts May Occur In The Following Areas
- Warts can be solitary, grouped, raised on the skin, flat, or “cauliflower”.
- The skin may be puffy, rough, leathery, light brown, or gray in color.
- Usually, there is no pain or soreness. However, itching may occur.
- It may bleed slightly during sexual intercourse.
- It can occur within weeks or months after sexual contact with a person with warts.
- HPV infection that causes genital warts can rarely cause warts in the throat when the mouth comes into contact with the genital area.
- In the vulva (external female genital area)
- In or around the vagina
- In or around the anus
- In the groin (where the genital area meets the inner part of the thigh)
- In the cervix
- One or more formations between the legs or anus.
The vast majority of individuals who are sexually active become infected with the HPV virus at least once in their lifetime. Those infected with the HPV subtype that causes warts can also get genital warts. Some risk factors increase the chance of encountering HPV. These:
- Unprotected sexual intercourse with multiple partners,
- Having a sexually transmitted disease other than the genital wart,
- Being sexually active at an early age,
- It can be counted as having diseases that suppress the immune system or receiving such treatments (such as chemotherapy).
Genital warts are very typical in terms of their appearance. Diagnosing genital warts can be diagnosed by examining warts by a Dermatologist. It can also be diagnosed by Gynecology and Urology. It can be detected in women, especially during a routine one-year gynecological examination.
If you have genital warts that are bent, do not have sexual intercourse until your treatment is over, and inform your partner. HPV in women is an important risk factor for cervical cancer. Therefore, the following tests are performed for the presence of other HPV types besides genital warts:
Pap Smear Test
During the gynecological examination, a sample is taken from the vaginal entrance with a special brush or spatula. It is a painless procedure. It is determined whether there is a cellular change in the cervix. Smear testing alone is not enough to diagnose cancer. A positive smear test indicates that there is a problem and diagnostic tests need to be done.
HPV DNA test
If the Pap smear is abnormal, the possibility of HPV causing cancer is investigated.
It is the examination of the vulva, vagina, and cervix with light magnifying glass.
Cell changes that may cause cancer are investigated by taking tissue from the cervix.
There is no cure for removing HPV infection from your body. However, genital warts can be destroyed by the following methods. In the treatment, it is aimed not only to remove warts but also to completely clean the wart and tissue.
Genital warts are treated with cream, cryotherapy (burning) or freezing, and surgery if the wart is large.
They are drugs that provide treatment by burning the wart tissue chemically.
This allows the wart to freeze and thaw by spraying liquid nitrogen. It does not require anesthesia.
Warts are burned with electric current, the operation is performed by numbing that area with local anesthesia.
- Topical medication:
Cream or liquid is applied directly to warts a few days each week. This can be done at home or in the clinic. Treatment can continue for several weeks.
- Laser therapy:
Warts are destroyed with a laser beam.
In the treatment of genital warts, it is common for doctors to use more than one treatment at the same time.
Treatments are generally not painful, but can sometimes cause pain and irritation for up to 2 days. Those who experience discomfort after treatment can take over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers for relief.
It is usually performed under anesthesia and warts are removed individually by the surgeon. The main purpose of treatment is to completely destroy the base tissue where the warts are located.
With all these treatment methods, existing warts heal. However, the carrier can continue for years. For this reason, warts may come out again depending on the changes in the person’s immune system.
- HPV / Genital Warts Treatment in Men
There are currently no tests that can show the presence of HPV in men. Warts are commonly seen on the penis, scrotum, anus, and groin of men. If warts, flesh, swelling, wounds, ulcers, white spots, or other abnormal structures are noticed in and around the penis, a specialist should be consulted.
The types of HPV that can cause warts in the genital area are not the same as the types that can cause cancer. Other types can cause cancers of the penis, anus, and mouth, and throat. However, HPV prevention is still important for men as the virus has been linked to rare cancers such as penis, anal, and head, and neck.
The treatment of genital warts in men is done with medication, surgery, burning, or freezing.
What diseases does HPV infection cause other than genital warts?
People infected with HPV usually get rid of this virus within a few years. However, the virus can continue its existence in the body and cause various problems. While some subtypes of HPV cause genital warts, some subtypes also cause cancer. Cervical (cervix), anus, mouth, penis cancers; are cancers that are closely related to HPV infection. Cervical cancer is highly associated with HPV, especially in women. Women should be screened for cervical cancer by performing a Pap smear at regular intervals after the age of 30. This screening test is very important for the early diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer.
Do genital warts cause problems during pregnancy?
It is rare for genital warts to cause an additional problem during pregnancy. Although not common, warts can grow and make it difficult to urinate. Warts on the vaginal wall can prevent the stretching of the vaginal tissues during birth. Warts on the lips of the vagina may bleed due to excessive enlargement during delivery. Although it is a very rare condition, babies born to a mother with genital warts can have warts in their throat. These warts may need to be surgically removed to prevent obstruction of the baby’s airway.
Is it possible to prevent the formation of genital warts?
There are vaccines developed against HPV, which plays a role in the development of various cancers, especially genital warts and cervical cancer. There are vaccines that protect not only against HPV subtypes that cause cancer but also against HPV subtypes that cause genital warts as well as cancer. These vaccines can be given to anyone over the age of 45. However, vaccination, before active sexual life begins, provides more effective protection. It is recommended that girls and boys have the HPV vaccine after the age of 9. In this way, the possibility of developing diseases such as genital warts and cervix and penile cancer decreases in the future. In addition, the use of condoms that prevent skin contact during sexual intercourse is a protection method that reduces the risk of genital warts.
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