Genital warts are a common sexually transmitted infection caused by a virus called Human papillomavirus (HPV). A virus is a submicroscopic, non-living, biologically inactive, and often pathogenic entity that requires a living host organism to replicate.
The papilla is a tiny projection that resembles a nipple. A papilloma is a growth created by the enlargement of the mucous or skin papillae, similar to a wart or a corn. The papillomavirus is a type of virus that causes papillomas in both humans and animals. Some of these papillomas are cancerous. Human papillomaviruses (HPV) result in warts on the soles or toes of the feet and on the genitalia of humans.
Genital warts and their occurrence
Human papillomavirus (HPV) causes genital warts. Genital warts are skin-colored protrusions that are tiny and supple. Genital warts can develop on the external genital organ (vulva) and the genital area between the vulva and anus, on the cervix (the entry to the womb or uterus), and in the vagina (the sheath leading to the uterus) in women. Genital warts in men can appear on the penis, near the anus, and between the penis and the scrotum (the muscular pouch that houses the testicles). Infection with HPV can result in malignancy (uncontrolled growth) of the vulva, penis, and anus.
HPV is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can be passed on through oral, vaginal, or anal sex with someone who is already infected with the virus. The infection may take a long time to develop from the moment the person is infected, and as a result, genital warts might not appear immediately, implying that the person is still infected with HPV even though there are no visible indications. In women, genital warts may exist in regions where they cannot be seen in plain sight.
Diagnosis of genital warts
The doctor may use a physical exam to diagnose genital warts in men. The doctor may need to extract a sample of tissue from the genital wart to determine whether or not the lesion is a genital wart. A pelvic exam and a Pap (cervical smear) test are required in women to screen for any anomalies related to genital warts. A colposcopy, which is used to microscopically inspect the vaginal walls and cervix for any abnormalities, may be required.
Treating genital warts
Genital warts must be treated by your doctor. Do not resort to self-treatment. Once infected, the viral infection cannot be eradicated. As a result, even after the warts are removed, HPV remains in your body, and the warts may recur.
To remove genital warts, your doctor may use one of the following methods:
- Cryotherapy: The warts are removed or destroyed by freezing them with liquid nitrogen.
- Chemicals: To remove genital warts, special chemicals such as trichloroacetic acid are employed. These chemicals dissolve the warts and may need to be applied a number of times over a period of several weeks.
- Electrocautery: Electrocautery is the use of electricity to cauterize and remove genital warts using special equipment.
- Laser (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) therapy: When the warts are extensive and all other treatments become ineffective in removing the genital warts, then they are vaporized using laser therapy.
- Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP): In this procedure, a thin, low-voltage electrified wire loop is passed around the base of the wart to cut it off from the skin.
If you do not get the genital warts treated, there is a risk of these warts growing further. You could spread the HPV infection to your partner. If you happen to have genital warts on your cervix, they could grow abnormally and become cancerous. Untreated genital warts can lead to cancer of the vulva, vagina, anus, and penis.
Do not neglect genital warts
HPV is very common and can be treated. If you notice any genital warts, you should not be embarrassed. Consult your doctor, who can provide you with appropriate treatment to get rid of them. If you do not seek treatment, you may pass on the HPV infection to your partner, or the untreated HPV infection may progress to cancer.