Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of virus that constitutes more than 100 types of virus, amongst which more than 40 types of virus can infect the genitals. This infection attacking the genitals is usually not serious and without symptoms. Thus, the infection does not require any treatment. However, the main concern for this condition is that, since its symptoms do not surface it can be easily transmitted to the sexual partner. Though not severe in most cases, HPV can cause genital cancer and warts as well.
What are HPV or Genital Warts?
Genital warts occur as soft growths on the genitals. It is a sexually transmitted disease which causes pain, itching and distress in the genitals. Genital warts are caused by specific types of human papillomavirus (HPV). This condition is particularly dangerous for women because certain strains of HPV can cause cervical and vulvar cancer.
Symptoms of HPV or Genital Warts
Usually, genital warts are not accompanied by any kind of symptoms but if any symptoms appear these include:
- Appearance of small bumpy growths or warts in the genital area which resemble cauliflower.
- Inflammation of warts
- Genital wart symptoms may include bleeding from vagina (not from menstruation), urethra or anus.
- Disruption in normal flow of urine due to presence of warts in urethra.
- Warts may also appear on lips, mouth, throat, and tongue in case oral sexual contact occurs with an infected individual.
Causes of HPV or Genital Warts
The HPV that cause warts are the sole reason behind the genital warts. Since, the infection caused is contagious and readily infects the top most layer of the skin; hence, any physical contact to the ailing surface, usually sexual, can readily transmit the infection causing genital warts to the healthy individual. In most cases, the infection causing genital warts is destroyed completely by the immunity mechanism of the body.
Risk Factors of HPV or Genital Warts
Factors that involve increased risk of getting infected with HPV or having genital warts are:
- Carrying out unprotected intercourse with multiple partners.
- Possessing additional sexually transmitted infection.
- Involving in intercourse with a random partner without any information about their sexual history.
- Getting sexually involved at a very young age.
Complications of HPV or Genital Warts
The various possible complications of genital warts are:
- Pregnancy: Pregnant women are more susceptible of getting infected with HPV or genital warts and pass it on to the newborn during birth, though this happens only in rare scenarios. Pregnant women also have an increase in the severity of warts in terms of size and bleeding.
- Cancer: Certain types of HPV can turn carcinogenic leading to cancer related to cervix, penis, vulva, anus, and throat. Amongst which, probability of cervical cancer is the most.
Diagnosis of HPV or Genital Warts
The diagnosis of HPV or genital warts is done as follows:
- Physical Examination: It involves examination of genitals for the occurrence of warts by using mild acidic solution, to enhance their appearance. In case of females, a pelvic examination is conducted to check for warts deep inside the vaginal region.
- Pap Smear Test: This test is for females where the swab from the cervix is taken to test for the presence of HPV. It also helps in identification of cancerous possibilities by identifying abnormal HPV. This can be followed by regular monitoring of the changes occurring.
- Assessment of Sexual History: Medical Practitioner can keep a record of health and sexual history of the patient to understand the various symptoms experienced during the time of intercourse and oral sex.
Treatment to Get Rid of HPV or Genital Warts
Usually, these warts are acted upon by the body's immunity and often disappear by themselves but in case the symptoms of HPV or genital warts are painful then certain treatments can be utilized for relief. Some such genital wart removal treatments are:
- Topical Applications to Treat HPV or Genital Warts: Some of the topical application creams that can help get rid of genital warts are:
- Imiquimod (Aldara)
- Podophyllin and Podofilox (Condylox)
- Trichloroacetic acid (TCA)
- Surgical Procedures to Treat HPV or Genital Warts: In case the visible warts do not disappear gradually, then there are certain surgical procedures that can be used to burn, freeze, laser, or cut off the genital warts.
Can HPV or Genital Warts Affect Pregnancy?
Though the genital warts do not affect the chances of conception but there are some potential problems that can come up during pregnancy. These include:
- Upcoming changes or abnormality in cervical cells increases the chances of cervical cancer.
- Occurrence of bleeding and increased growth of warts under the effect of hormonal changes during pregnancy.
- Excess growth of genital warts in the vaginal region can hamper the process of normal delivery; hence, cesarean section will have to be opted.
- Occurrence of health problems in the baby like recurrent respiratory papillomatosis.
Prevention of HPV or Genital Warts
Genital warts or HPV can be prevented with the following measures:
- Vaccination: Certain vaccinations help in preventing the occurrence of genital warts and these are-
- Gardasil: It is the available vaccination for protection of men and women from the most common HPV strains that are responsible for causing genital warts.
- Cervarix: It is the vaccine available for cervical cancer and must be taken during the teen years before any sexual engagement. However, it only protects against cervical cancer and not the other reproductive organ cancers.
- Safe Sexual Intercourse: Using a condom whenever involving in intercourse would reduce your risk of getting genital warts. This must be done without fail when engaging in sexual relation with an unknown partner or with multiple partners.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) or Genital Warts is a sexually transmitted disease which most commonly affects the individuals who are sexually active, as it increases their chances of exposure to the virus. The mode of transmission of HPV is via direct contact with the infected skin, thus it primarily affects the genitals, anal region and oral region which are frequently involved during sexual intercourse. The infection usually has no symptoms but in case the symptoms appear these include appearance of warts. Some strains of HPV are responsible for cervical and anal cancers as well. Thus, if the symptoms appear one must take immediate measures to seek help and get checked about their health status.