A Comprehensive Guide To Genital Warts: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Rishabh Mehta
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Kaushal

Review medical content on WOW Rx Pharmacy, so that accurate drug use information is easily accessible to everybody.
Dr. Akansha is a licensed Clinical Pharmacologist. She possesses remarkable knowledge in Pharmacovigilance, prescription analysis, drug information, and drug safety services. Additionally, she is a keen learner and an educator.

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genital warts

From skin tags to pimples, several types of genital bumps are commonly observed. 

One of them is Genital Warts. It is a Sexually Transmitted Infection caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV). 

According to the CDC, 43 million people had HPV infection in 2018.

Out of all the cases, not everyone develops Genital Warts. Still, those who do may not even notice because they have a similar appearance to other genital bumps. 

So, it becomes essential to recognize its symptoms to differentiate it from the rest and seek the right treatment. 

This article serves the need by presenting a detailed guide to Genital Warts covering its symptoms, causes, treatment, and prevention. 

What do Genital Warts look like

Genital Warts are skin-colored or whitish-gray bumps that are filled with clear fluid.

They are often mistaken for Herpes lesions, which are caused by Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). 

They can be so tiny that they are not noticeable or grow into large clusters that appear like cauliflower. 

They can be raised or flat, accompanied by itchiness, but are usually painless. 

Fact:
HPV 16 and HPV 18 are the two types related to most of the cancers caused by HPV. Including these, there are 12 other high-risk HPV types. The types related to Genital Warts are not high risk. 

Genital Warts symptoms

Person having burning sensation while urinatingSource: Prostock_studio
Discomfort in the genital area

Genital Warts are themselves a sign of HPV infection. 

Not every infected person experiences Genital warts, but those who do can also experience recurring warts. 

Along with these, some other symptoms can also appear, which are:

  • Itching, pain, or discomfort in the genital area
  • A cluster of a few warts to create a cauliflower-like shape
  • Bleeding during sex
  • Skin or some other color swelling on or around genitals
  • Burning sensation
  • Increased dampness in the genitals
  • Increased penile or vaginal discharge

Genital Warts men

In men, Genital Warts can appear on:

  • Penis
  • Thighs
  • Scrotum
  • Inside or around the anus
  • Groin area

Genital Warts women

In females, Genital Warts appear on:

  • The cervix or the insides
  • Anus
  • Inside or around the vaginal

What causes Genital Warts

Genital Warts are caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a group of more than 200 viruses. 

Out of these, not all strains are related to Genital Warts. 

Only HPV types 6 and 11 are known to cause Genital Warts. 

They are low-risk types and are not dangerous or cancer-related. 

Recommended Article
To know about the treatment options for Genital Warts in detail, Read Treatment for Genital Warts: Managing the Infection Effectively

How is Genital Warts spread

Sexual contactSource: Signature_images
Sexual contact

Genital Warts mostly spread through direct sexual contact. 

Skin-to-skin contact during oral, anal, and vaginal sex can pass on Genital Warts to the other person. 

Ejaculation is not necessary for transmission. 

Genital Warts also pass from mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth, but such instances are rare. 

Warts on the other part of the body are different and caused by different strains. 

So, touching the warts on hands or feet does not cause Genital Warts. 

Genital Warts treatment

Although there is no treatment for HPV, the cause of Genital Warts, the virus clears itself within 18-24 months. 

Genital Warts can also disappear as the infection goes away but can reoccur. 

Several medicines for genital warts can help get rid of them. Some of them are: 

  • Trichloroacetic acid: This chemical treatment is used for burning genital warts
  • Podophyllin and Podofilox: Podophyllin is used by medical experts to destroy the wart tissue. Another similar option is Podofilox, which can be used at home
  • Sinecatechins: It is an ointment used for treating genital or anal warts or those around these areas
  • Imiquimod: It is a cream used to improve the body’s ability to fight infection and build immunity, which helps get rid of Genital Warts

Sometimes, medicines are not enough to treat Genital Warts, and medical professionals use advanced surgical procedures. 

Some of the available options are: 

  • Laser removal: In this procedure, a laser beam is used to destroy warts
  • Electrocautery:  The process involves the use of electric current to burn warts
  • Surgical removal: A wart is cut out or scraped using an instrument
  • Cryotherapy: It involves using liquid nitrogen to freeze the wart tissue and remove it
Warning:
A mass of Genital Warts during pregnancy can block the birth canal, which can create the need for C-section. Infected mothers must immediately consult a doctor to avoid such complications. 

Genital Warts risk factors

All sexually active adults have chances of getting HPV and Genital Warts, but several factors make one more prone to contracting them. 

Some of these factors are:

  • Not getting the HPV vaccine
  • Having a weakened immune system from medical issues like HIV or medicines given after an organ transplant
  • Sexual relationships with more than one partner
  • Having other Sexually Transmitted infections
  • Having unprotected sex (intercourse without a condom) 
  • Becoming sexually active at a young age
  • Having sex with someone having unknown sexual history

Genital Warts prevention

Woman holding condomSource: Signature_images
Use condom

Sexually active people are the most likely to get HPV infection and Genital Warts as they spread from sexual contact. 

So a few steps can play a crucial role in preventing the acquisition and transmission of Genital Warts. Some of them are: 

  • Get the HPV vaccine
  • Use condoms or dental dams during intercourse
  • Get routine testing for STIs and necessary treatment if required
  • Staying honest with your partner about your HPV infection so they can seek treatment on time
  • Stay monogamous with one sexual partner or limit your number of partners
  • Do not douche
  • Do not have sex if you have visible Genital Warts or symptoms

Conclusion

Genital Warts are fluid-filled skin-colored or whitish bumps caused by HPV. 

They are contagious and spread from skin-to-skin sexual contact. Although, sometimes a mother can pass Genital Warts to her baby. 

Genital Warts are accompanied by symptoms like bleeding during sex, genital itching and discomfort, and increased discharge. 

To treat them medicines like Trichloroacetic acid and Sinecatechins are used. Sometimes, surgical procedures are also required to get rid of warts. 

Although all sexually active adults are prone to Genital Warts, people who indulge in risky sex practices and do not get the HPV vaccine are more likely to get it. 

So, one must practice safe sex by using condoms and dental dams, get vaccinated, and stay honest with their partners to ensure a safe and healthy life for everyone concerned. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Genital Warts grow back? 

Yes, Genital Warts can grow back, but not in all cases. Genital warts are a symptom of HPV, which usually goes away by itself in 24 months. However, there is no cure for the infection so that it can return. Even if the warts were treated previously, they can recur. 

How long can I live with Genital Warts?

Genital warts are not dangerous and treatable. They usually go away without causing major complications. The strains of HPV that are related to Genital Warts do not cause cancer. So one can enjoy a normal life despite having Genital warts. 

How common are Genital Warts? 

Genital Warts are very common, as one in every 100 sexually active adults in the US gets them once in their lifetime. These are caused by HPV, which is the most common STI affecting 80 percent of all sexually active women and 90 percent of all sexually active women. 

Are Genital Warts contagious? 

Yes, Genital Warts are contagious as they spread from direct skin-to-skin sexual contact. Genital warts can also reach the lips, mouth, and throat through oral sex. Even non-sexual contact through fomites and fingers spreads HPV, which can cause Genital Warts.

What can be mistaken for Genital Warts? 

Genital Herpes is another STI that leads to sores that closely resemble Genital Warts, and the two are mistaken for each other. Molluscum contagiosum and skin tags are the other two genital issues mistaken for Genital Warts.

Citations:
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