Genital warts are a very common sexually transmitted infection (STI), which are caused by strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV). Genital warts are small growths of flesh on or around the genital area of both males and females. They can affect men and women of any age, but are most common amongst 17 to 33 year olds. Genital warts are highly contagious. An infected person has a 60% chance of passing on the infection to a sexual partner after a single act of sexual contact. It is therefore very important to get treatment as soon as possible.
There are several medications available that will treat genital warts, but it is not possible to completely eliminate the HPV infection. Creams such as Aldara, Condyline and Warticon will help to manage the symptoms caused by genital warts.
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It is possible that you will not be immediately aware that you have been infected. For some people, it can take several months of being infected before warts appear, though it can happen in as little as two weeks. You are likely to notice the appearance of fleshy growths or bumps on the external or internal genital or anal area.
A genital wart could appear on its own or in a group. They can be large or small, smooth or rough, usually painless but sometimes itchy. These warts often cary in colour, according to individual skin tone. Sometimes genital warts can develop deep inside the vagina for women or inside the urethra for men. This means that you will not experience visible signs of the infection.
Genital warts are caused by the HPV virus, which is transmitted through sexual contact. Around 90% of these infections are caused by HPV-6 and HPV-11, which are specific strains of the HPV virus which are considered "low risk", meaning their cancer-causing potential is low. Other types of the HPV virus, such as HPV-16, are more high risk and can lead to cervical cancer.
Genital warts can be spread by having vaginal, anal or oral sex with a person who is infected with HPV. Those who do not practise safe sex or have multiple sexual partners may be more at risk, especially those who do not use condoms.
Genital warts can be uncomfortable or unpleasant but they are not usually dangerous. If the warts bleed uncontrollably, you should see a doctor immediately. If they block the opening to the urethra to the point that you are not able to urinate, you may have to go see your doctor for a genital warts removal treatment.
It is a myth that genital warts can develop into cervical cancer. The types of HPV that cause genital warts (HPV-6 and HPV-11) are not the same as those that cause cervical cancer. It is possible, however, to have more than one strain of HPV at a time. If you are concerned, you should talk to your doctor.
Genital warts treatments can be both surgical and medical. Though the warts themselves can be treated, it is important to remember that the virus that causes the warts cannot be cured or removed, which could lead to further outbreaks in the future.
Surgery is usually only an option for especially large warts or for women during pregnancy. Such treatments can include freezing the warts with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy), burning off the warts with an electrical current (electrocautery) or laser treatments.
"A very common viral STI, genital warts are characterised by fleshy growths on and around the genital area or anus. The infection can't be cured but can be managed with a number of treatments."Dr Hilary Jones
HealthExpress Medical Advisor
There are several genital warts treatment creams available on prescription such as Aldara, Condyline and Warticon. Over-the-counter treatments are not recommended as they may not be suitable for the sensitivity of the genital area. The chemical trichloroacetic acid can be used as a genital warts removal treatment by burning off the warts, but this can only be applied by a doctor.
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If you have tested positive for genital warts, you can complete an online consultation to determine which of the medications is most suitable for you. The consultation will be assessed by one of our registered doctors, who will prescribe the medication according to your medical history and overall health. Our pharmacy will then dispense the medication and dispatch it for next-day delivery, a service which we offer free of charge.