What is HPV and what are Genital Warts?
A genital wart is a sexually transmitted disease which occurs as a result of the infection with type 6 or type 11 HPV. HPV, or the Human Papilloma Virus, is an extremely common virus which affects a large number of people. HPV is known to have many subtypes, each of them being capable to lead to a different type of infection. However, HPV is primarily linked to genital warts.
Symptoms of HPV or Genital Warts
The main symptom of an HPV infection is actually the appearance of genital warts. This disease is a clear indication of the presence of the virus in the organism. The main symptoms of genital warts are visible bumps in the genital area. In women, the warts can appear around the vulva or inside the vagina, whereas in men, they usually appear on the penis or around the testicles.
How is HPV Transmitted?
HPV is transmitted through unprotected sexual encounters between two partners. During the contact, the infected person passes the virus to the healthy person, thus spreading the infection. Sexually active persons who change partners often are especially prone to acquiring the infection and to spreading it to others, in turn. Therefore, it is important for anyone to use protection during each sexual encounter. Even though condoms are usually perceived as an efficient means of preventing a pregnancy, their role is also to block the transmission of infections such as HPV.
Testing and diagnosis of HPV or Genital Warts
Untreated genital warts can cause serious complications in both men and women. For example, women with genital warts may get cervical cancer in the future, while men who suffer of this disease can get cancer of the penis. Therefore, if you notice a bump in the genital area which resembles a wart, you should put your feelings of embarrassment aside and consult your doctor.
Usually, a doctor has a formed eye and will be able to recognize genital warts by simply looking at them and physically examining the genital area of the patient. And since genital warts can only result from an HPV infection, the diagnosis can be made rather easily.
In women who develop genital warts inside the vagina, the situation may be more complicated because the position of the warts can make it difficult for the doctor to analyze them properly and make a clear diagnosis. In this case, the doctor may perform a Papanicolaou test (or Pap smear) on the female patient. The results of this test will reveal any signs of cancerous or precancerous formations that can be linked to HPV. The doctor will then perform an additional test in order to see whether any signs of HPV DNA are visible in the material collected during the Pap smear.
Some doctors prefer analyzing a biopsy from the genital wart itself in order to make the diagnosis.
Cures and treatments for HPV or Genital Warts
It is important to know that, even though genital warts can be successfully removed, the HPV virus can never be eliminated from the body.
Depending on the size and the spreading of the warts, your doctor may either recommend a treatment based on medications that require local application, or a more complex treatment which requires surgical intervention.
If the warts are small, they can usually be treated with pharmaceutical products. If, however, the warts are large and numerous, you may need surgical excision. Genital warts can also be treated through cryotherapy, a procedure which involves freezing the lesions. On the opposite end, cauterization is another practice employed in the treatment of genital warts. This procedure is aimed at destroying the abnormal tissue by exposing it to extremely high temperatures.
Above all, remember to always use protection when having sex with a partner that you do not trust to be healthy, in order to avoid acquiring an HPV infection.