Genital Warts

What is Genital Warts?

Genital warts are soft wart-like growths on the genitals caused by a viral skin disease. Genital warts are a type of sexually transmitted disease (STD), also called a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

What causes Genital Warts?

The virus responsible for genital warts is called human papilloma virus (HPV). This virus can cause warts on the penis, vulva, urethra, vagina, cervix, and around the anus.

HPV infection around the genitals is common, although most people have no symptoms. Even if you do NOT have symptoms, however, you must be treated to avoid complications and spreading the condition to others.

There are more than 70 different types of HPV. Several types are associated with genital warts. Other types are associated with common or flat warts elsewhere on the skin. Some types have been found to cause cancer of the cervix and vulva.

HPV grows well in the moist genital area. Warts on the outer genitals are easily recognized. They are raised, flesh-colored lesions that may occur singly or in clusters. Left untreated, warts may rapidly enlarge, taking on a "cauliflower-like" appearance.

In women, HPV can invade the vagina and cervix. These warts are flat and not easily visible without special procedures. Because HPV can lead to cancerous and precancerous changes in the cervix, it is important that this condition be diagnosed and treated. Regular Pap smears are necessary to detect HPV or other abnormal changes related to this virus. Having both HPV and herpes virus together may put you at increased risk for cervical cancer.

What are the symptoms of Genital Warts?

Genital warts are raised, flesh-colored lesions on the genitals, anus, or surrounding skin. They may appear as cauliflower-like growths around the anus or genitals. However, there are often no symptoms. Symptoms that may occur include:

* Abnormal vaginal bleeding (not associated with a menstrual period) after sexual intercourse * Increased dampness or moisture in the area of the growths * Itching of the penis, scrotum, anal area, or vulva * Increased vaginal discharge

How is Genital Warts treated?

Genital warts must be treated by a doctor. Do NOT use over-the counter remedies meant for other kinds of warts. Your doctor may treat genital warts by applying a skin treatment in the office. Or, the doctor may prescribe a medication that you apply at home several times per week.

Surgical treatments include cryosurgery, electrocauterization, laser therapy, or cutting them out.

If you develop genital warts, all of your sexual partners must be examined by a health care provider and treated if genital warts are found.

After your initial treatment, your doctor will schedule follow-up examinations to see if the warts have returned.

Women who have had genital warts, and women whose partners have ever had genital warts, should have Pap smears at least once a year. For warts on the cervix, women may be advised to have Pap smears every 3 to 6 months after initial treatment.