What is Genital Warts?
Genital warts are a viral condition spread through unsafe sexual contact. They are painful and greatly resemble the more familiar form of warts generally (and mistakenly) associated with frogs and toads. They are the primary symptom of the human papillomavirus, and frequently the only means by which to determine that one is in fact infected with the human papillomavirus at all. Human papillomaviruses types 6 and 11 are the most frequent offenders, and are responsible for over 90% of all cases of genital warts.
Genital warts are in and of themselves benign, but the human papillomavirus frequently is not. The warts themselves are infectious, although infection is also possible when no warts are visible on the skin. Genital warts primarily manifest directly where infectious skin contact occurred, be that the head or shaft of the penis, the scrotum, the interior of the vagina or etcetera. These areas of skin may still be infectious even if warts are not currently presenting there or have not presented yet.
Who gets Genital Warts?
Genital warts may afflict anyone who comes into contact with another individual that suffers from genital warts, especially through unsafe sexual contact. While ‘safe sex’ is frequently misconstrued as a concept revolving around contraception, the truth is that safe sex further extends to the prevention of venereal diseases. For sexual pairings involving men, this requires a condom, whether or not contraception is a concern.
The term ‘genital warts’ is generally applied to any contagious sharing of warts that should come through sexual contact. However, it is also possible for individuals that have not engaged in sexual contact to contract genital warts through kissing if the individual they are kissing carries the human papillomaviral infection orally, which is entirely possible (if fairly less common).
A very small percentage of individuals who contract the human papillomavirus go on to display genital warts. Infection by the human papillomavirus is extremely high, with estimates including more than a quarter of all sexually active individuals by default and extending to encompass nearly half.
What causes Genital Warts?
Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus, as spread into the system by sexual contact. The virus infects a layer of the skin, which causes it to begin to grow into clusters of very uncomfortable warts. The human papillomavirus has a tendency to linger, and it may be quite some time following infection before genital warts should ever present themselves. Following the inital presentation, genital warts may return as a recurrent condition.
The human papillomavirus is rather infamous for the effects it can have in women. There is a very strong and dangerous connection between the human papillomavirus and various forms of cervical cancer, many cases of which are fatal. The strains of the human papillomavirus that cause cervical cancer, however, are not the same strains that cause genital warts. The human papillomavirus is a multifaceted thing, and the conflation of all strains together leads to the common misconception that genital warts is caused by the same condition that can serve as a precursor to cervical cancer. This is good news for those suffering from genital warts, but it consequently means that the strains of the human papillomavirus that can raise the risk of cervical cancer frequently will not present with symptoms.
What does Genital Warts cause?
Genital warts are in and of themselves fairly isolated. They are uncomfortable, painful and unsightly. In very severe cases they may result in scarring. The human papillomavirus is a far more serious condition. However, the types of the human papillomavirus that cause genital warts are not the same sort that cause more serious side effects. Some of the types of human papillomavirus that are spread in the same manner that do not present in the form of genital warts can, through their persistence, lead to precancerous lesions. But, again, this is not the same type of human papillomavirus that causes the relatively harmless genital wart.
Outbreaks of genital warts increase the infectivity of the human papillomavirus. This is perhaps the primary concern surrounding genital warts; while the strains of the human papillomavirus that cause genital warts are not the same strains that can cause precancerous lesions in women, cases of genital warts do increase the infectivity of all forms of human papillomavirus. Because all strains of the human papillomavirus can lay dormant and effectively hidden for long periods of time, outbreaks of genital warts present a very real danger of serious infection. For individuals that are not sexually active, this point is effectively moot.
How serious is Genital Warts?
Genital warts is a reasonably serious concern as it indicates an infection with one or more types of the human papillomavirus. The types of the human papillomavirus that are most concerning are excluded from the type of human papillomavirus that causes genital warts, but it does indicate a vulnerability brought on by sexual habits. That is to say, individuals suffering from genital warts may wish to interpret their infection as a wakeup call, and begin practicing safe sex. Those that are already practicing safe sex that still find themselves infected with genital warts should avail themselves of possible changes to their methods.
Genital warts are a nuisance, but not a true threat, and they stand little chance of becoming anything more than a nuisance during their tenure. While the human papillomavirus may linger and recur, outbreaks are generally fairly short, and once the body has flushed the virus from the system, these outbreaks should end. The human papillomavirus itself can be representative of a far more serious danger to the system. However, the strains of the human papillomavirus that pose this danger are not the same strains that cause genital warts, contrary to common rumor.
The most serious nature of genital warts is perhaps psychological. Genital warts can appear quite disfiguring when there is an outbreak, which can significantly damage one’s self-esteem. Additionally, it precludes any reasonable sexual contact until such a time as the warts have resolved themselves or have been worn away with treatment. This prospect can be quite demoralizing for many individuals. While the human papillomavirus is very widespread, infection is still a very real concern. This is especially true for women, in whom some forms of the human papillomavirus can cause precancerous lesions with very little symptomatic presentation over a very long period of time. All of this, coupled with its nature as a venereal disease and all that can imply with respect to emotional intimacy and trust in a relationship leaves genital warts a potentially very frustrating disease on a mental level.
What does Genital Warts treatment look like?
Treatment of the underlying cause, the human papillomavirus, is effectively impossible. It is possible for patients suffering from various forms of the human papillomavirus to flush it out of their systems over time with their immune system, but there is no treatment to eliminate it. That said, genital warts itself can be treated.
Cases of genital warts will frequently go away on their own, but there are treatment options available. Treatment of genital warts consists most frequently of topical agents used to clear up the warts themselves. These topical agents usually consist of various acid concentrations. Many of these treatments are sold over the counter, but there are more concentrated variants available by prescription for more serious cases that warrant heavier treatment.
Very difficult cases of genital warts, particularly in females, may be met with various forms of cryosurgery. In cryosurgery, the warts are treated with liquid nitrogen, causing them to freeze and die. As the skin heals itself afterward, the warts vanish. This has a fairly high success rate, but recurrence is still quite frequent.
Various treatments may be exchanged based upon various medical necessities. Pregnant women seeking to have genital warts treated are not able to use certain acidic treatments, and certain acidic treatments are not viable for oral cases of genital warts. Allowances can also be made for affordability; some treatments are considerably more costly than others, which holds true both of prescription and over-the-counter treatments.
How do I know if I have Genital Warts?
Genital warts is easily identified by the proliferation of distinct warts in the genital area. The warts are easily identified by the nature as hard, rough blisters. Following the presentation of genital warts, infection by the human papillomavirus can be inferred. It is generally wise to seek the advice of a medical professional in this circumstance for treatment, although many are understandably reluctant to pursue medical advice for such an embarrassing condition.
Infections of the human papillomavirus may be identified through other testing procedures, and the strains of the human papillomavirus that cause genital warts may be discovered long before they ever present as warts, if in fact they ever do. These tests (frequently in the form of pap smears, for women) are primarily carried to identify possible infections of the more dangerous strains of the human papillomavirus, and are highly recommended to be carried out on a regular basis by a number of medical authorities.