Genital warts are fairly common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). How do you recognize a condyloma? How to get rid of it?
All the answers can be found in our dedicated article.
What are genital warts?
Genital warts are fairly common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). Condylomas manifest themselves as small warts in the genitals.
According to some estimates, between 50 and 70% of the sexually active population will come into contact with HPV viruses during their lifetime, with most of these people’s bodies disposing of them spontaneously. And about 1% of the population has condylomas.
Causes of genital warts
There are about a hundred strains of HPV, some of which can cause genital warts, including types 6 and 11 for 90% of cases. The latter are highly contagious and are transmitted through sexual contact or even skin-to-skin contact.
Genital warts: possible complications
Some types of HPV are associated (HPV 16 or 18) with cervical cancer, vulvar cancer, anal cancer, and more rarely penile cancer. Over time, some genital warts can develop into precancerous lesions and then cancer. Pap smears (Pap tests) can detect possible precancerous transformations, and therefore treat them before the cancer stage.
The many condylomas can sometimes cause problems during childbirth. Very rarely, children born to mothers with genital warts may have genital warts in the throat or respiratory tree (papillomatosis), requiring surgical management.
Genital warts: when to consult?
If you have had unprotected unsafe sex, or if you notice warts on your genitals, see your doctor for appropriate screening tests.
Pap smears can detect precancerous lesions of the cervix, and therefore significantly reduce the number of cases of cervical cancer.
Condylomas usually manifest themselves in the form of small warts on the external genitalia. Some people are more vulnerable.
Find out more in the article below.
Genital warts: Symptoms
Condylomas usually manifest as small warts on the external genitalia, either the vulva, penis, or scrotum.
Condylomas can sometimes be found in the vagina, cervix, urethra, or anus area.
More rarely, they can develop in the mouth. Condylomas do not usually reach the thighs.
Condylomas usually form growths reminiscent of the texture of cauliflower. Sometimes genital warts will be flat or slightly raised.
Their size is usually a few millimeters, but larger lesions are possible, and sometimes these lesions can be very numerous. They can also have an acuminate appearance and resemble a rooster crest, very relieved.
Genital warts are similar in coloration to the skin, but they can also be pink, white, gray, or brown.
Itching can be triggered by condylomas.
Embarrassment, shame, and moral suffering can accompany these condylomas, especially when they are very visible, and this can delay the consultation with a doctor.
- Warts on the vulva, vaginal walls, cervix, perineum, urethral meatus (opening for urinating), and around the anus;
- bleeding during sexual intercourse
- itching or discomfort
- Warts on the glans, frenulum, foreskin, urinary opening, and around the anus.
Genital warts: who are the people at risk?
Because HPV viruses are common, all sexually active people are at risk of genital warts. However, the following people are particularly at risk:
- Young age, the peak frequency of condylomas being between 20 and 24 years;
- people who have been sexually active since a young age;
- people with a new sexual partner;
- people with more than one sexual partner;
- people who do not use condoms;
- people who have contracted another STI;
- people with a weak immune system, for example, a person on radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or immunosuppressive therapy;
- people not vaccinated against HPV;
- people who smoke. Tobacco decreases immunity and people in contact with papillomavirus are much less likely to eradicate it spontaneously if they are smokers.
Prevention aims to reduce the incidence of genital warts and cervical cancer.
Find out which preventive measures are effective here.
Genital warts: preventive measures
Why prevent genital warts?
Prevention aims to reduce the incidence of genital warts and cervical cancer by preventing the transmission of papilloma virus or stopping the progression of the infection before cancer or genital warts occur.
Avoiding smoking allows the body to better defend itself against papillomaviruses and lets the body eradicate them more easily.
Basic preventive measures
Proper use of condoms helps reduce the transmission of genital warts. However, they are not 100% effective, as the virus is also transmitted from skin to skin. These are highly contagious.
Get treatment when you are in a relationship and use condoms, to avoid transmitting HPV to the partner as much as possible.
Gardasil and Cervarix vaccines protect against certain strains of HPV, which cause cervical cancer and genital warts.
These vaccines are given to young girls before they are sexually active, in order to immunize them before they come into contact with these papillomaviruses. It is estimated that after 2 years of sexual life, nearly 70% of men or women have encountered these viruses.
Gardasil® vaccine immunizes against HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18, preventing both cervical cancer and HPV-related lesions. Cervarix® vaccine immunizes against papillomavirus 16 and 18 causes 70% of genital cancers due to papillomavirus.
In women, a gynecological examination may be enough for the doctor to observe condylomas and make a diagnosis. In other cases, it is the cervicovaginal (Pap test) or anal smear that can detect the presence of lesions.
In other cases, the doctor uses a biopsy.
In men, a complete genital examination and endoscopic examination of the urethra are required to detect genital warts.
In the case of genital warts, certain treatments and complementary approaches can treat them effectively.
Check out the full and detailed list below.
Genital warts: how to treat them
Condylomas can decrease or disappear without any intervention. However, medical treatment can eliminate visible lesions more quickly, thereby reducing the risk of transmission.
The doctor treats the consequences (genital warts) of the infection and not its cause (HPV), which means that warts can sometimes return, even after they are gone.
There are different approaches to removing genital warts.
At home, infected people apply a cream, imiquimod 3 times a week at bedtime and for up to 16 weeks. This cream stimulates the immune system, causing the disappearance of condylomas.
In case of failure other older treatments can be used as a second resort, such as podophyllotoxin, or 5-fluorouracil.
If necessary, condylomas can be removed by a laser, cryotherapy (thanks to liquid nitrogen), or electrocoagulation, where an electric current is used to burn warts.
Genital warts: complementary approaches
Green tea extracts
In 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of an ointment based on green tea extract for the local treatment of condyloma acuminata.
The ointment in question, Polyphenon-E, contains 15% green tea catechins. Tested in people with genital warts, it removed or regressed warts in about half of the cases. It also prevented their reappearance in a few cases.
In a control group study of 63 subjects with genital warts, an increase in immune response was observed in subjects treated with cordyceps and a decrease in recurrences.
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