There are different types of warts. Genital warts appear in the genital area. Sometimes a single wart forms, but more often in appears in groups. The warts may look like small bumps scattered on the skin or form a cluster that resembles cauliflower. The warts can be raised or flat, feel smooth or rough, vary in size, and are skin-colored or darker.
Genital warts spread when a person infected with the HPV has genital contact with an uninfected person, including sex, oral sex, or just genital to genital contact. There are about 100 types of HPV; only a few types can cause GW. HPV infections are common. At least 50% of sexually active people have had an HPV infection, making it the most common sexually transmitted infection.
Most people who become infected do not know it, and the warts never develop because of their body’s immune system’s natural ability to start fighting the virus. They may never get any signs or symptoms, which is why an infected person can spread the virus to his/her partner without knowing it. Most people fight off the virus within a few years and are no longer contagious.
Those with weak immune system may not be able to fight the virus. Some causes of weak immune system include medical conditions such as AIDS or cancer and medications that weakens the immune system as a side effect.
When the body cannot fight the virus, the warts may develop. They may not appear for weeks or months after contact. Warts can form in the genital area, inside the vagina, or in the anus. Some HPVs can cause cancer.
Sometimes a child can get GW. It may be passed from mother to child during childbirth or it may be a sign of sexual abuse.
GW can be diagnosed by dermatologists. Sometimes a part or all of the wart may be removed and sent to a lab to confirm that it is a GW.
Removing the warts can reduce the risk of spreading the virus. GW can cause itching, burning, and bleeding, and interfere with bowel movements, urination, and sexual intimacy. Treatments help to alleviate these discomforts. Some people seek treatment because the warts are unattractive and difficult to keep clean. While the warts may clear on its own without treatment, it gives patients peace of mind and promote faster healing. Seeking treatment also helps to know that the wart is not cancerous.
Before treatment doctors consider factors such as number of warts, the location of the warts, and the patient’s overall health.Treatment may involve a procedure at the doctor’s office. The warts may be cut out or removed with other device such as a laser or electric current. Sometimes a liquid nitrogen may be used to freeze the warts. Some patients receive interferon injections.
Prescription medicines for GW that are applied to the warts include podofilox (to stop the wart’s growth), imiquimod (boost the body’s immune system to fight HPV), and a green tea derivative.
While treatment removes the warts, it may not eliminate the HPV virus. If the virus remains the warts can return, and the person can still spread it through sexual contact.Women who have been treated for genital warts should get Pap smears as precaution against cervical cancer caused by HPV.
All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology.