Genital Warts

Genital warts are a sexually transmitted infection. They may appear as small bumps on the tissues of the genital area.

CAUSES

Genital warts are caused by a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) and infection of the sex organs. This infection is spread by having unprotected sex with an infected person. It can be spread by vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Many people do not know they are infected. They may be infected for years without problems. However, even if they do not have problems, they can unknowingly pass the infection to their sexual partners.

SYMPTOMS

  • Itching and irritation in the genital area.

  • Warts that bleed.

  • Painful sexual intercourse.

DIAGNOSIS

Warts are usually recognized with the naked eye on the vagina, vulva, perineum, anus, and rectum. Certain tests can also diagnose genital warts, such as:

  • A Pap test.

  • A tissue sample (biopsy) exam.

  • Colposcopy. A magnifying tool is used to examine the vagina and cervix. The HPV cells will change color when certain solutions are used.

TREATMENT

Warts can be removed by:

  • Applying certain chemicals, such as cantharidin or podophyllin.

  • Liquid nitrogen freezing (cryotherapy).

  • Immunotherapy with candida or trichophyton injections.

  • Laser treatment.

  • Burning with an electrified probe (electrocautery).

  • Interferon injections.

  • Surgery.

PREVENTION

HPV vaccination can help prevent HPV infections that cause genital warts and that cause cancer of the cervix. It is recommended that the vaccination be given to people between the ages 9 to 26 years old. The vaccine might not work as well or might not work at all if you already have HPV. It should not be given to pregnant women.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • It is important to follow your caregiver's instructions. The warts will not go away without treatment. Repeat treatments are often needed to get rid of warts. Even after it appears that the warts are gone, the normal tissue underneath often remains infected.

  • Do not try to treat genital warts with medicine used to treat hand warts. This type of medicine is strong and can burn the skin in the genital area, causing more damage.

  • Tell your past and current sexual partner(s) that you have genital warts. They may be infected also and need treatment.

  • Avoid sexual contact while being treated.

  • Do not touch or scratch the warts. The infection may spread to other parts of your body.

  • Women with genital warts should have a cervical cancer check (Pap test) at least once a year. This type of cancer is slow-growing and can be cured if found early. Chances of developing cervical cancer are increased with HPV.

  • Inform your obstetrician about your warts in the event of pregnancy. This virus can be passed to the baby's respiratory tract. Discuss this with your caregiver.

  • Use a condom during sexual intercourse. Following treatment, the use of condoms will help prevent reinfection.

  • Ask your caregiver about using over-the-counter anti-itch creams.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • Your treated skin becomes red, swollen, or painful.

  • You have a fever.

  • You feel generally ill.

  • You feel little lumps in and around your genital area.

  • You are bleeding or have painful sexual intercourse.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.