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Genital Warts

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What are genital warts?

Genital warts are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (H.P.V.). they are small growth or bumps that can occur around the genitals or anus.

H.P.V. is the name of a group of viruses that include more than 100 different types.  Each type of H.P.V. has been given a number, the types that cause genital warts are numbers 6 and 11. Other common problems caused by the H.P.V. virus are veruccas and skin warts.

How are genital warts passed on?

Genital warts are very contagious and are passed from one person to another during sex (anal or vaginal) with an infected person, or by skin-to-skin contact. It’s also possible for the virus to be passed on when no warts are on the skin. People who have many sexual partners put themselves at a higher risk of catching genital warts. A mother can pass H.P.V. to her child during birth.

How can I prevent genital warts?

If a person has genital warts, sex should be avoided until the warts have cleared up. If a condom is used properly and totally covers the affected area (where warts are present) you are less at risk of catching genital warts. To prevent catching genital warts and other sexually transmitted diseases, condoms should always be used.

What are the signs and symptoms of genital warts?

Genital warts are pinkish/white growths or small lumps. Warts may be raised or flat, on their own or in a group and can cluster together to form a larger cauliflower shape on the genital area. Warts can appear on the vulva, vagina and the cervix in women and on the penis, scrotum and groin in men. Both men and women can also develop warts around the back passag or on upper thighs. It usually takes 1-3 months from infection for warts to appear, not everyone who comes into contact with the virus will develop warts and some people do not even know they have it. Usually warts are not painful though they may irritate and cause discomfort.

Occasionally, warts may cause symptoms such as itching, pain or bleeding in the genital area.

How are genital warts diagnosed?

If you have any unusual lumps on your genital area you should visit your doctor or a G.U.M. clinic to have them checked. There is no blood test for the virus so the doctor will first examine the affected area to look for warts. The doctor may carry out an internal examination also and on rare occasions a biopsy may also be taken.

Are genital warts easily treated?

Genital warts can be treated with a few different treatments the type you receive will depend on the size and quantity of warts you have. If warts are not visible then no treatment is required. There are topical treatments available these are creams or liquids that can be put on warts, this is usually carried out yourself at home. The other types of treatment available are a laser method, using an intense light to destroy the wart and a freezing method, to freeze the wart. The aims of the treatment are to get rid of visible warts and reduce the amount of virus.

Never try to treat genital warts by yourself, always visit a doctor or a G.U.M. clinic for advice and treatment. Everyone is different and it may take several visits to the clinic to get rid of the warts. Though these methods will remove visible genital warts, the underlying H.P.V. infection can’t be cured. The virus stays in your body and can cause warts to appear in the future.

How can genital warts affect me in the future?

Scientists have found a link between several types of H.P.V. and the development of, cervical cancer and penile cancer. The strains of H.P.V.  that are linked to most cases of cancer are types 16 and 18 the H.P.V. strain that causes genital warts are not thought to cause genital cancers.

Genital warts may cause a number of problems during pregnancy. Sometimes warts can enlarge during pregnancy, making urinating difficult. If warts are present on the vagina they can make it less elastic and cause obstruction during delivery. In rare cases pregnant women can spread the infection to their child during birth.

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