What are Genital Warts?

What are Genital Warts?
By Dr. Peter Klapper Ph.D.

Anyone can get infected with genital warts. The most common way of transmittal of a genital wart is through intercourse with someone who has genital warts or touching the genitals of someone who already has a genital wart infection. In rare situations, a person is born with a genital wart infection, or a child becomes infected with hpv or genital warts while being bathed or changed. Sometimes people become infected with genital warts and the genital warts will not develop for many years.

Genital warts appear on or around the genitals and anus of both men and women. A genital wart often occurs in groups and can be very tiny or can accumulate into large masses on genital tissues. Left untreated, a genital wart may eventually develop a fleshy, cauliflower-like appearance. Genital warts can be serious for females as they can occasionally cause cervical cancer if left untreated.

It is believed that there are more cases of genital warts than any other STD in the United States. According to the American Social Health Association, there are over 5 million new cases of genital wart infections reported every year. There are approximately 40 million people in the USA currently infected with genital warts.

Like other STDs, it is not uncommon for genital warts to be devoid of visible signs and as a result, a person with genital warts often may not have visible signs or symptoms. One study sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) reported that almost half of the women infected with genital warts had no obvious symptoms. People who are infected with genital warts, but who have no symptoms, may not know they can transmit genital warts to others or be aware that they may be at risk from developing complications from the genital wart virus.

Genital warts (also called venereal warts) are the most easily recognized sign of genital HPV infection. Many people, however, have a genital HPV infection without any visible sign or symptom of genital warts.

Genital warts transmission statistics
Genital warts are very contagious and are spread during oral, genital, or anal sex with a person who is infected with genital warts. About two-thirds of people who have unprotected sexual intercourse with a partner who has genital warts will develop genital warts, usually within three months of contact. (WebMD.com)

In women, genital warts occur on the outside and inside of the vagina, on the opening (cervix) to the womb (uterus), or around the anus. In men, genital warts are less common. If present, genital warts usually occur on the tip of the penis. Genital warts may also be found on the shaft of the penis, on the scrotum, or around the anus. Rarely, genital warts also can develop in the mouth or throat of a person who has had oral sex with a person infected with genital warts.

Can genital warts prevented?
The only way to prevent a genital wart infection is to avoid direct contact with the virus, which is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact. If you or your sexual partner has genital warts which are visible, you should avoid any sexual contact until the genital warts are treated. Studies have not confirmed that male latex condoms prevent transmission of HPV or genital warts, but results do suggest that condom use may reduce the risk of developing diseases linked to HPV, such as genital warts and cervical cancer.

Back Next

Related Articles